Doing Church | Salt Mountain Pastoral Retreat

Throughout this blog our team of brothers reach out to their
fellow spiritual leaders aiding them in their time of need.

 

Brothers In Arms Blog

BROTHERS \ noun plural: men who share a parent in common
IN \ preposition: used as function word to indicate purpose
ARMS \ noun: weapons\verb: to furnish with weapons

FRIENDS WITH WEAPONS

 

Rookie Pastors

Keep the Devil Out of the Details

Bible college and seminary are great for a lot of things. In my experience, important skills you need to survive in an office such as yearly budgets, business plans, and understanding a housing allowance, are not some of those things. I love the education I received, but I am embarrassingly lost every spring when I try to do my taxes. For rookie pastors, or for those who start a pastoral position at a new church, someone on staff will approach you within your first 30 days and start talking about things that affect your paycheck and how many days you get off for the year.

It will be tempting to not ask questions because you are intimidated or because of some silly pride that prevents leaders from asking questions. You can go that route and miss out on some deserved benefits. Or you can ask some honest questions and get clarity.
rookiepastor

I can’t say that I understand it all, but I understand enough to know what I should leave to professionals and what I really need to pay attention to. However, the best time to ask questions about your taxes, for instance, is in those first 30 days—and not on April 12. This is true with questions regarding Social Security and payroll withholdings. It’s also true for a housing allowance the church board approved for you.

In general, churches are also really bad about clarifying time off. Maybe it makes you uncomfortable to have conversations about the difference between a sick day and a day off. Is a day away for a conference or a mission trip considered a vacation day? It may not seem like a big deal now, but when you are burnt out after a crazy stretch, and you need a day to sit in front of the TV and drool, you will be thankful you have some clarity.

Taking the time in those first 30 days to get clarity on all of these matters related to pay and benefits will make a measurable difference for you, not to mention make life easier for the staff who handle these details.

Editor’s Note: For more help on questions related to Social Security withholdings, housing allowances, and other benefits, check out the 2012 Church & Clergy Tax Guide.

 
 
Categories: Doing Church Comments: 0

10 Reasons I Can Hardly Wait

to come back to your church!

This is not a theological discussion, it’s a practical one for leaders who want to think about ways to reach people for Jesus Christ. Imagine how exciting it is to discover churches actively seeking to be spiritually “in tune”, Kingdom of God-centric, and attractive to newcomers at the same time. This piece is based on several churches that each have long lists of “atta-church” credits to their collective name.

The visitors who reported these findings are many, and this digest of their comments speaks to the ways in which we can reach people who might otherwise disappear back into the non-churched masses.

1. I had my curiosity about God pumped and prodded. I didn’t think God was all that interesting and I certainly didn’t think God was interested in me.

A truly inviting church always manages to convey the idea that God is not just historical, but relevant to our time and culture. Our talk about God needs to include the history we’re all living through together, as in, “What do you think God wants us to do about this in the coming week?”

2. You didn’t talk down to me.

“Holier than thou,” is more than a well-worn phrase. In some churches it’s a creed! It can be as subtle as carrying a huge Bible (or three) to church or only talking in God-slang when you’re on church property. Strangers sometimes feel judged before they even walk in the door.

3. You welcomed me without smothering me.

In our desire to make disciples, we sometimes make deserters out of guests who flee from our confining zealousness.
Welcoming and suffocating with good intentions are two very different things.

4. I liked that the signage was so clear, I didn’t have to ask a lot of questions and it made me feel more independent.

There’s a subtle line between being a hovering host and being the kind of host who says, “Welcome, take a look around and ask anybody anything. We’re always happy to help.”

5. I liked your music. You didn’t seem to be trying to impress me, but I was impressed!

There are lots of churches priding themselves on their great music. That’s a good thing. Surprisingly though, visitors can usually tell the difference between sincerity and raw manipulation. In the former, they are free to participate. In the latter, they usually come out with mixed feelings.

6. I really liked the fact that your pastor hung around after the service for a long time.

Even if you have multiple services to lead on any given day, taking time to be available is a sign of church leadership dedicated to serving people and their needs. There are even pastors in humongous churches who hang out afterwards for long, long periods of time, wunderkind Joel Osteen among them.

7. I was never made to feel guilty for the years I have spent ignoring the church.

You may disagree, but grace is always a better starting place than judgment. The Holy Sprit doesn’t need our help or advice on how to convict the human heart.

8. It felt good to be comfortably dressed for your service.

Many folks who haven’t been to church in several years are unaware that it’s less formal than it used to be. In a church where all “responsible” attire is welcomed, people will cross that off their list of “religious don’ts” which may have kept them away previously.

9. I found myself more content and less scattered than I have been for a very long time.

Sometimes, in our attempt to keep people “engaged” in worship, we also keep squirting huge amounts of adrenaline into them. In the 80’s we used to call it “happy clappy” worship. Interestingly, one of the most engaging things we have to offer is disengagement, or the slowing of the constant stimulus our congregations and guests are subjected to in our ADD culture.

10. I was pretty impressed that there was someone in the parking lot welcoming people as they headed toward the church.

We welcome, then we welcome, then we welcome…
…then we say, “You’re welcome!”

 

Categories: Doing Church Comments: 2

Marking Time With Facebook

Is Your Ministry Ready For This Mandatory Change?

No matter how we feel about it, our culture communicating via the social media platform is here for the long term. There is no getting away from it. If your ministry doesn’t yet have a website, or if it already has a Facebook Page, you may want to take a moment and consider what is on your immediate horizon. Does the screen shot above look familiar? Next week on March 30th, the social media giant Facebook, will be changing the way we do church business with our social mediums. Facebook has already rolled out their new “Timeline” layout as an option for those who were in the know. Some have embraced the new visual stimulus package, and others have not. Be aware, next Friday, you won’t have a choice in the matter. However, the new layout may not be all that bad for ministries with tight purse strings. For many of us, our small donation dependent budget’s haven’t yet grown to afford a website, much less a designer or programmer to create one. Facebook’s new Timeline layout may be a bit of answered prayer, if done correctly. With the new visual format and the mega following FB has, for those of us who choose to think outside of the box, we can take advantage of what FB Timeline has to offer. The new FB Business Page is quite willing and built to serve as web communication central, if you choose to let it. The required new “face” of your ministry on FB will come with many new and exciting features that really are worth using to their full potential. Alas, there are also a few technicalities of which we all need to be aware:


Rule #1

Do you know if your ministry has a Facebook Business Page, or a Profile? You need to know the difference. Make sure your ministry is not using a Personal Profile as its Business Page. Back in the day, this was an easy mistake to make and many good intentioned volunteers did so in good conscience. Now however, Facebook considers this to be a direct violation of their TOS (Terms of Service). You may ask “What is the big deal, we’re just a small non-profit ministry?” First and foremost, it is important that our ministries operate within the law. Even when some might interpret it as just a small “rule”. It is important that we live by the high standard Jesus layed before us in all circumstances. James the “just” reminds us that,

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point

is guilty of breaking all of it.         James 2:10 (NIV)


As with any and every sin, pleading ignorance will earn no mercy. It may seem circumstantial, but FB has a legal right to impose their policies and they will. If you are in violation, you run the risk of the giant chewing up and spitting out your ministry’s identity, never to be found again in the cyber-world of FB. In Facebook’s mind, people (Personal Profiles) have “friends”, businesses (Business Pages) like your ministry, have “fans”. When you try to make the transition to get in compliance, if not handled with care, you run the risk of loosing all of your ministry’s friends as well as all of its potential fans.

Change Happens

Like it or not, FB is forcing this fast approaching huge change in just seven days. If your ministry is not in compliance, better to start down the road to correct the error now, than to beg for forgiveness later. There are those who know how, and are willing to try to help ministries who find themselves in this predicament. For those of you who are slightly overwhelmed by the whole social media craze, a little bewildered and trying to determine just where to start, there are folks who can help you sort it out. They can also work along side you in the design of your ministry’s new “face”. Try reaching out to the people at yourpagesolution@gmail.com, contactus@jennergy.com, tjtodd@studio490.com, daniel@pageprogressive.com and others with the same attitude of servanthood in this area. They have already helped a few businesses and ministries migrate their Personal Profiles to Business Pages without the loss of friends, fans, or FB vanity URL’s.

Vanity At Stake

Does your ministry have a vanity URL? If it does and its current “face” is a Personal Profile, likely the URL is linked to that same identity. A big concern for most, is the blaring risk of loosing your branded vanity URL’s that are now associated with Personal Profiles. When your ministry makes the switch to a Business Page, its URL may not migrate with it. Many have become painfully aware that FB policy clearly states it does not reassign URL’s. Once claimed and used in cyberspace within the FB platform, the giant considers that piece of real estate non-recyclable. If your ministry doesn’t have a vanity URL already, you may want to wait until after it makes the transition to a Business Page to get one.

The New FB Timeline Layout

Like it or not, here it comes! Your new one-size-fits-all layout will consist of a cover photo, a profile photo, a tab strip that links to photo albums, events, and other custom apps, as well as some bright and shiny new features like pinning posts. (Hmmm – any guesses where that idea came from?) Your Page will also allow your stories to be larger, and you can highlight them with a star icon so that they span the entire page width. Or, you can make them age defying by creating “milestones” within your Timeline. FB has in mind that you use milestones for your monumental events and accomplishments like your first overseas mission event, the building of your new church or a church planting, the introduction of new leadership staff or programs, etc. As an FYI, fan gates still exist, but you may be disheartened to learn that landing pages are gone for good.

What To Expect From Your New, Free, Web Presence

With a good design, you can make the most of what the cover photo and Timeline layout have to offer. They can be eye candy if done right. However, there are some strict FB rules that make it bitter-sweet. A few being that cover photos are not allowed to include contact information, references to FB features or actions ie; “like” or “share”, price or purchase information or calls to action like “Visit us this Sunday”. We know, we hear you — sounds a bit like an oxymoron for a business doesn’t it? Facebook offers more information with regard to these limitations, read about them here.

The profile photo is pretty straight forward. It is likely to be the place where most ministries are going to feature their logo. The profile photo does have a dual purpose however, it also functions similar to an avatar within the FB platform. When making your selection, keep in mind the “mini-me” philosophy of its appearance.

Your photos and apps will appear by default as a line of “tabs”, above the fold. Try to picture it as your room, but you don’t get to choose where your guest finds the photo album. FB has a real passion for photo images so they have programmed this as a permanent fixture, first in line on the tab strip.

You also get to choose what you want visitors to read first by “pinning” posts. This is a great place for  announcements like the upcoming pot-luck, conference, VBS, retreats, prayer requests, stories, etc. You can pin a post or important story to the top of the Page where it will reside for seven days. After that,  it will automatcially resume its proper place in the Timeline hierarchy.

Basically, the new Timeline layout has more of a “website” feel, rather than just a page of posts. It gives you the opportunity to display the character of your ministry and tell your story with visual aids. The new features give you more control, allowing you to interact with your followers on a FB level. Since you aren’t going to get away from the social media giant, you might want to consider taking full advantage of what it has to offer.

The Good News

What have always been handy, and easy to use, are the FB Insights. Most of us are now guaranteed to appreciate them even more. You will have even better access to even more information. Such as, if you click the “Likes” box within the tab strip you can see, in a nut shell, basic data about your audience as it applies to your specific ministry. This section reveals how many “People are Talking About” the Page, its total number of “Likes”, “Most Popular Week”, “Most Popular City” and “Age Group” as well as other useful information. Spend some time wandering around this new frontier called “Page Insights”. It has much to offer and makes swallowing the pill of change a little easier. Insights also offers great information for assessing your ministry’s reach that many of us otherwise could not afford. A nice feature for all of us.

Our Facebook Future

So why all the change? Facebook had to know that none of us were going to like being forced to do anything against our will. What’s their point and who is really going to benefit from all this? That is yet to be determined but all in all, the recent changes in FB are going to allow ministries to function more like, well . . . a business. That may not have been their intention, but it can be to our benefit if we take full advantage of it. After all it is free — at least for now!

How do you think these changes might affect your ministry? Do you know of some exciting ways ministries can benefit from the FB changes? We are curious to hear your thoughts and ideas about the new Facebook features. Leave your questions and comments below. Thanks for stopping by!


Categories: Doing Church Comments: 2