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Cutting Down Ministry Trees With Dull Axes

I have worked with and talked with countless ministries, Senior Pastors and staff teams from around the world. Every one of these groups have a desire to grow, a desire to be efficient and a desire to be productive. Every ministry tries different strategies to foster growth, efficiency and productivity. The most over-looked strategy to propel growth, efficiency and productivity is “time off and rest.”

In all seriousness, Sr. Pastors should try to find themselves in the sweet spot of preaching between 35-40 weekends per year (no more.) If they are preaching more than that, they probably aren’t raising up any other leaders/teachers, they probably don’t have adequate relationships with other Sr. Pastors, they are probably stifling the organizational growth culture and they are setting themselves up for burnout and failure. In addition to time off, an appropriate sabbatical policy should also be in the mix as well.

When it comes to the staff, some cultures only allow staff to take off 2 ministry weekends a year. Seriously, that is absolutely ludicrous if the ministry truly desires to grow, while increasing efficiency and productivity. The staff need to rest and there is not a staff member on the planet that is so important that they can’t take more than two weekends off. If they are perceived to be that important, they probably aren’t leading because they should be able to raise other leaders up to keep the ship going in their absence. Staff should take off no less than 4-6 weekends a year and ideally 2 of those weekends should be back to back. You must know your culture and know your rhythms.

The same thing is true for high capacity volunteers, especially those that volunteer multiple services and in multiple ministries. These individuals generally have demanding full-time jobs and need to rest, rejuvenate and recuperate, in order to increase their productivity. It’s up to the staff and ministry leaders to know the various rhythms and be in tune with when to encourage and sometimes demand volunteers take some time-off.

If you want to grow, be productive and efficient, you must schedule time to rest, time to refresh, time to energize and time to do absolutely nothing. Stephen Covey refers to this as sharpening your axe. He tells the story of someone so busy cutting down trees that they don’t take time to stop and sharpen their axe. The person who takes the time to sharpen their axe will cut down more trees. Some ministry staff, Sr. Pastors and volunteers are cutting down ministry trees with dull axes.

Sometimes the most important times to take off and rest is when it’s the craziest and the furious ministry storms are coming at you 100 mph.

23Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” Matthew 8:24-27

What kind of man is this? He is “Jesus” the kind of man that took time to rest. Just as Jesus said to his disciples, I will say to ministry leaders “The reason you and your staff are not taking time off is because you are of little faith, you have so little faith that you don’t think the ship can float with out you or your team guiding the ship.” Get some rest, have some faith and watch how smooth your ministry ship will sail. Sailing to the shores of efficiency, productivity, growth and a bonus island called “health.”

What do you think? Share your thoughts and experiences. 

Give Shoes. Give Love.

Over 300 million children worldwide are without shoes.  That’s why I love working with Soles4Souls as they have an unwavering commitment to put shoes on kids feet around the globe. Shoes are important for these children as walking barefoot puts their bodies at major risk of contracting life threatening illnesses caused by parasites.

Without shoes, many of the world’s children will never be allowed to walk through doors of a school. And therefore may never escape the cycle of poverty.

Soles4Souls’ New Micro-giving campaign “Give Shoes. Give Love” in partnership with The Love Alliance is making a difference and you can help.  Just $7 a month and you will provide 7 pairs of shoes to children in need. That adds up to 84 children a year!

Register to donate $7 each month and you’ll receive a FREE Love Alliance t-shirt.

Wear the shirt. Spread the love. Give Shoes. Give Love.

We Do Not Serve Volunteers!

volunteer1GUEST BLOGGER: Today’s guest blogpost comes from @EstherRennick. Esther Rennick is an adventurer, administrator, writer, and songwriter from Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.  Check out her blog Adventures Of Lady Esther:  If you would like to submit a Guest Blog Post for, click here.

We Do Not Serve Volunteers!

Churches around the world give the call to Christians to serve.  Millions answer that call in the form of serving in their local church.

For many church volunteers, the experience is positive.  With the help of church staff and organizers, the volunteer is given the open door to effectively serve while still having the time to work and have family life.

Unfortunately, this is not the experience of all church volunteers.  Many experience a sign posted on the front of the church that says, “We Do Not Serve Volunteers!”

Thousands of volunteers have given up their ministry because they have become burned out and disillusioned.  Fingers are pointed as to who is at fault; however, the end result is many have given up on their calling and sit in pews week after week not serving.

If your church has any of the following symptoms, the sign on your front lawn may say “We Do Not Serve Volunteers!”

A Volunteer . . .

  • is asked to serve for two hours but it takes six.
  • is frequently “expected” to do over and above what they were asked to do.
  • is not given the resources they need to do their part.
  • is made to feel that their “smaller ministry” is not as important as the “bigger ministry.”
  • must work with church scheduling that is not organized.  Volunteers may arrive to find the church door locked and meetings cancelled with no notice given.
  • will not have a mentor – only potential volunteers receive this service.
  • should not expect to grow in their ministry.  Volunteers should be prepared to be stuck in their present role forever even if they are a budding leader.
  • must be patient and understand responses to emails and telephone calls will not be promptly answered by church leaders or staff.  Inquiries may not even be answered.
  • should not give suggestions for improvement or articulate what is not working because that is “complaining” which is not allowed.
  • must be understanding that it is alright for full-time church staff to work less hours a week than volunteers do.  Volunteers are expected to give more.

Volunteers may hear the words that they are loved and appreciated but actions speak louder than words.

If you are not sure that the sign on the front of your church is “We Serve Volunteers!” begin dialoguing with your volunteers.  Approach them with a servant heart.  Ask them to share with you what makes it difficult for them to volunteer in your church.

Make the decision to make the changes needed in your church that will allow the sign “We Serve Volunteers!” to be proudly displayed on the front of your church.  Set a shining example in your community of how to serve all people – including volunteers.

Share your thoughts and experiences!

"Homeless Please Help" Homeless Man Speaks!

Watch the video and share your thoughts on panhandlers and homeless people on the side of the road. Do you generally help (money, food, hygiene items etc.)? What thoughts go through your mind when you pull up to the intersection? What are your thoughts regarding Kevin’s perspective?

Note: It’s a little windy, but it helps with the ambiance! 🙂

Do You Appreciate Me?

Do You Appreciate Me? is one of those questions that many people ask inside their head, but often times don’t verbally communicate.  This is true in marriages, friendships, professional working relationships, sports… the list goes on and on.  I believe this is a question that runs through the minds of volunteers as well; those who are volunteering their time to (blank) cause. 

Do You Appreciate Me?

I want to specifically speak to that question as it relates to the people volunteering in churches around the country.  Tonight we are having our once a year volunteer appreciation party at all of the Campuses, called the “Big Show” and it will be off the hook.  Each campus will uniquely make their event happen; however the central theme for this year is HERO.  We love to appreciate our volunteers, they are our Heroes and Jesus is our incomparable Hero.  My buddy Scott Rodgers has been heading up the “Big Show” this year and has done a great job.

We clearly understand that our volunteers are serving because they believe in the mission… To Lead People To Become Fully Devoted Followers of Christ.  Volunteers are not serving to be appreciated; however they need to know that what they do matters and that they are appreciated.  Let’s talk through some things we do and can do to appreciate our volunteers: handwritten notes, saying “Thank You,” taking them to lunch, remembering events (b-days, anniv.), keeping them in the-know, making their recommendations happen, big events, a phone call, allowing them to lead, spending time, recognition, atta-boys…  There is a great book called “1001 Ways To Reward Employees” that I used when working in corrections; it has some good ideas.

I would love to hear from those of you who are on staff at a church, volunteer at a church, are thinking about volunteering at a church, have never volunteered at a church… I want to hear from everyone. 

  • In your opinion what makes you or others who volunteer feel most appreciated?
  • What are some unique volunteer appreciation methods or events that you have been a part of?
  • Am I just blowing smoke… do people really ask the question “Do You Appreciate Me?”

For those of you who serve for the cause of Christ… Thank You!

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