Why Your Mother’s Day Service Shouldn’t Be About Mothers

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 2.35.06 PMAs Mother’s Day approaches, every pastor’s in-box will be visited by clips and links to fun and sentimental videos about moms. These may be just the right thing to add spice to your Mother’s Day service, but the rest of your service should not be built around moms.

You read it right. Mother’s Day should be about men.

Here’s why:

1. On a normal Sunday in a normal church, over 60% of the congregation is women. Many unchurched men believe that church is mostly for women. They think church is about talking and singing and caring for children. They think pastors are effeminate. Churches tend to be warm and relational, which appeals to women more than men.

2. One of the easiest days to get men to attend church is Mother’s Day. They come, not for themselves, but as a favor to their wives and moms.

On Mother’s Day, seldom-seen husbands, fathers and sons show up believing that church is for women, and we reinforce their stereotype by decorating the stage with flowers and frilly stuff, and preaching on the virtues of motherhood. These men leave further convinced that church isn’t for them.

Last Mother’s Day, New Song reversed that trend. Instead of preaching on mothering, I preached on the family. And I let the congregation know ahead of time that the message wouldn’t be centered on moms, but would be relevant to dads, granddads, and sons.

Sixteen people made decisions for Christ. Fourteen of them were men.

Yes, we said “Happy Mother’s Day” to everyone. Yes, we showed a wonderful video tribute to moms. Yes, we did child dedications. But we didn’t hand out flowers, and the music wasn’t skewed to the sentimental, and the message included illustrations and applications for men, not just women. At the end, when I gave an invitation to receive Christ, men responded. And they returned the following week.

Mother’s Day may be the most strategic day of the year to reach men. Here are four way to make that happen:

Four Must-Do’s for Mother’s Day

1. Skew the message towards men.

Men want to relate to a manly man. And women like it when men act like men. Male pastors ought to use male illustrations. Sometimes about sports. Often about business. If you hunt, fish, or camp, those provide excellent glimpses into the masculine world as well.

During my message, I outlined the purpose of the family. Men can relate to purpose. They want to know the purpose of their lives. We’re goal-oriented. What’s the purpose of a family? Men like to think about things like that.

During the message I gave six biblical purposes for the family:

   1. To build character.

   2. To bring stability.

   3. To shape identity.

   4. To provide mutual care.

   5. To create good memories.

   6. To prepare for eternity.

All of these require strong male leadership. I’ll need to find a different topic for this Mother’s Day, but you can use this outline, if you’d like.

2. Give an invitation.

Years ago my goal on high-visitor days was to deliver such a compelling message that guests couldn’t help but return the next weekend. That rarely happens without the nudging of the Holy Spirit. So now, on every high-visitor day, I invite people into relationship with Christ. The chances of a new believer returning are far higher than the chances of an intrigued onlooker making his way back the next Sunday.

In 1871, Dwight L. Moody was conducting a series of evangelistic meetings in downtown Chicago. He closed his Sunday message by encouraging everyone to return the following evening to hear the gospel. The Chicago fire broke out that night. No one returned the next day. Moody determined that he would never again pass up an opportunity to lead people to Christ.

For pastors, Easter, Christmas, and Mother’s Day are high-opportunity days. Without the wooing of the Holy Spirit, the chances of your least-committed audience members returning are slim-to-none. Invite them to Christ before they leave your building!

3. Don’t use the word “feelings.”

Language matters. In masculine settings, you hear words like, “vital,” “excellent,” and “incredible.” In feminine settings you hear words like “feelings,” “encouraging,” and “adorable.” Without realizing it, pastors play into the feminine side when they give “a recipe for a great marriage,” instead of “factors,” “components” or a “formula for a great marriage.”

Ask a fireman, hunter, carpenter, or mechanic what he thinks of a guy who talks about “hurt feelings,” “encouraging friends,” or “adorable babies,” and you’ll find that he’s not inclined to hang out with someone like that. Pepper your speech with masculine verbs and adjectives.

4. Let women know they should invite men.

A significant number of the women in your church wish they had a man sitting beside them. Many of them have one who came once and felt out-of-place. This year, let your female members know that their men will not feel out-of-place on Mother’s Day. Then prove it to them by delivering a service with robust, high-energy music, and a message with illustrations and applications for men. At the end, invite men to become great fathers, brothers and husbands by becoming great followers of Christ. (Men love to follow a great leader.)

One more thing: don’t call out the men. For a long time, churches have blessed women for being great mothers and guilted men for being poor fathers. The last thing a guy wants is to be told why he’s a loser, failure, or under-performer. In Ephesians 5, Paul tells men to love their wives, and women to respect their husbands. Respect is one of a man’s highest needs. This Mother’s Day, make him feel respected, give him tools and encouragement, and invite him to fulfill his calling as a man by becoming a Christ-follower. It just might be your best Mother’s Day ever!

Hal HeadshotHal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. New Song is launching a new campus every year and has seen over 17,000 people come to Christ. Hal mentors pastors to grow bigger, better churches. He offers resources to help church leaders at www.pastormentor.com.

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How to Let the Bible Master You

Bible Master YouDuring the final week of writing The Bible Questions, I had an epiphany. As I started the final five chapters on how to study the Bible in life-changing ways, a thought popped into my head:

It really is possible for people to be mastered by the Bible.

How could that happen?

Malcolm Gladwell, in his excellent book Outliers quotes Daniel Levitin’s This is Your Brain on Music. Levitin studied people at the top of their field in several disciplines, from music to chess to writing to ice staking. He even studied world-class criminals.

What he found was that something happens to a person who spends 10,000 hours on practically anything. Levitin says, “No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.”

What if it really were possible to be mastered by the Bible? Only God can master God’s Word, but what if God’s Word mastered you?

In the Old Testament, Ezra “…set his heart to study the Law of the Lord and to practice it.” (Ezra 7:10). What if you set your heart to study and practice the Bible? Is it possible? What would it look like for you?

Eating an Elephant

You’ve heard how to eat an elephant—one bite at a time.

I believe that the key to letting the Bible master you is to have a realistic plan you can stick with week after week, month after month, even year after year.

One bite at a time.

Is 10,000 Realistic?

Let’s assume that it will take you ten thousands hours to have your thoughts taken captive to obedience to Christ. How much elephant would you have to eat, for how long, to achieve ten thousand hours of Bible saturation?

Assuming your church sings songs that contain biblical content and your pastor preaches the Word of God, give yourself credit for an hour of Bible for church attendance every week.

Then there’s time in a small group Bible study. If you’re in a Small Group (or will join one soon), during your Small Group study, credit yourself with a second hour of Bible each week.

No one can build a relationship with God without personal time in his Word. Pastors and seminary professors can easily soak up two or three hours a day in reading and studying Scripture, but for most everyone else, half an hour is probably a realistic stretch of schedule.

Leaving off Sunday and figuring that something unexpected will come up at least one of the other six days, that leaves five days of a half hour of study, which comes to two and a half hours per week. (Unless you’re a pastor reading this, then, calculate your Bible-absorption at a much higher rate.)

As you progress in your faith, there will come a point when you admit you have something to offer others, and you become a Small Group leader. Realistically, you’re going to have to put in an hour or two of preparation for the Bible study you’re now leading.

It adds up:

1 hour church

+ 1 hour Small Group

+ 2 ½ hours personal time with God

= 4 ½ a week

Add 2 hours preparation when you begin leading a Bible study:

4 ½

+ 2

= 6 ½ hours a week

At 6 ½ a week, it will take you 30 years to reach 10,000 hours of Bible.

6 ½ hours

x 52 weeks

x 30 years

= 10,140 hours

That may seem like a long time, but consider that you are talking about being conformed to the image of Christ, that’s not bad at all!

Your Plan

Now you’ve got a plan, or at least a benchmark. You know how much elephant you’re going to have to eat in order to be mastered by the Bible in your lifetime.

If you want to arrive sooner, increase your personal Bible study, or add a second preparation time by volunteering to teach Sunday school. Enroll in a Bible class at church or online. Or go to Bible college or seminary for intensified training.

God’s Plan

I believe this is God’s plan for you. Exposing yourself daily to God’s thoughts will change your thoughts. It will help you see the world the way he sees it. And it will help you live in the world like he would, if he were in your place.

I think this is the enfleshment of Colossians 2:6, “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

God bless your journey!

Hal HeadshotHal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. New Song is launching a new campus every year and has seen over 17,000 people come to Christ. Hal mentors pastors to grow bigger, better churches. He offers resources to help church leaders at www.pastormentor.com.

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The Cure for Crazy Busy

Crazy BusyDoes your to-do list feel long and heavy this week? How long has it been since you took your foot off the gas?

Join the club.

John Ortberg’s book Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You crossed my path last week and I decided to download it and take a quick look at it – and I fell into a story that slowed me down and filled me up.

Spoiler alert: our soul needs “keeping”.  It needs our attention. It supersedes our mind and our body and our will. It is the part of us that goes into eternity.

John takes us on a walk with Dallas Willard through the pages of the book, and quotes Dallas:

“The most important thing about you,” Dallas would often say, “is not the thing that you achieve; it is the person you become.”

And quoting Willard again, as he paints the primacy of the soul as the center of our lives:

“What is running your life at any given moment is your soul. Not external circumstances, not your thoughts, not your intentions, not even your feelings, but your soul. The soul is that aspect of your whole being that correlates, integrates, and enlivens everything going on in the various dimensions of the self. The soul is the life center of human beings.”

We worry about saving others’ souls, but we skim over references to our own soul in the Bible:

Jesus tells us in Mark 18:20:

 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

The Psalmist asked:

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” (Psalm 42:4)

Our souls get kicked around. Beaten down. Bruised. Neglected. We carry on, but we’re half full on the inside. Nobody knows. Except maybe our spouse. We don’t want to admit that something isn’t right inside us. Or we don’t have anyone safe to tell. Or we are so focused on the achievement thing (or the demands in front of us) that we don’t notice and don’t care.

You start to realize it when all you want to do is watch TV with a bag of potato chips. You recognize that your inner life isn’t what it should be.

You don’t have to wallow there, though. You can get your soul running like a “stream that flows life where nothing is more important than God”. For starters, think about these three things:

1.  The soul needs a keeper. 

“You must arrange your days so that you are experiencing deep contentment, joy, and confidence in your everyday life with God.”

2.  The soul needs rest.

“We’re generally quite good at doing something, but we’re really bad at doing nothing. The space where we find rest and healing for our souls is solitude.”

3.  The soul needs satisfaction.

“You were made for soul-satisfaction, but you will only ever find it in God. The soul craves to be secure. The soul craves to be loved. The soul craves to be significant, and we find these only in God in a form that can satisfy us.”

You’ve heard pieces of this before in scattered sermons, in classic books on spiritual disciplines, and in the Bible itself, but you have come across it today to remember that you are the keeper of your soul and it is the most important part of you.

Guest post by Lori Seed.
Contains an affiliate link to Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You.

Hal HeadshotHal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. New Song is launching a new campus every year and has seen over 17,000 people come to Christ. Hal mentors pastors to grow bigger, better churches. He offers resources to help church leaders at www.pastormentor.com.

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How to Help People Answer Their Bible Questions

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 4.36.10 PMEverybody has questions about the Bible.

One of our regular responsibilities as church leaders is to answer those questions.

But where can you go for answers?

Two Types of Questions

I’ve discovered that people usually have one of two types of questions.

1. The first has to do with what you find in Scripture. 

Open Genesis 6 and you encounter The Nephilim. Who were these people? Where did they come from? Peruse 2 Corinthians 12 and you find Paul’s thorn in the flesh. What was that? Read Hebrews 6 and you find people who seem to be losing their salvation. Is that even possible? If so, what hope is there for these people?

To help people with these questions, I refer to two books. The first is Gleason Archer’s New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Dr. Archer was a professor at Trinity Seminary. For thirty years he answered people’s Bible questions for Decision magazine. By the time he was done, he found he has answered questions on most of the questionable passages in Scripture. So he put them all into this wonderful volume.

The second one I recommend is Norm Geisler’s The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation. As far as I can tell, Dr. Geisler (a professor at Dallas Seminary) looked at Archer’s book and decided he could add a few things to it. Both books have similar formats. They answer questions chapter by chapter and verse by verse. In my opinion, every Christian pastor and leader ought to have a copy of each of these in their libraries.

2. The second type of question has to do with what you don’t find in Scripture.

This second type of question is a little trickier. Certain questions are too long or too broad to be included in an encyclopedia or compendium, but too short to warrant a whole book. As you may know, I’ve spent the past twenty years surveying people about their questions about God, Christianity and the Bible. (That’s why I wrote The God Questions.)

When it comes to the Bible, I’ve discovered that there are about five major questions most people (both Christian and non-Christian) have:

(1) Why are there so many translations?

(2) Why was God so violent in the Old Testament?

(3) Why is there only one way to heaven?

(4) When will Jesus return?

(5) Where is the Trinity found in Scripture?

Each of these requires a little context and a longer explanation. I devoted a chapter to each in The Bible Questions.

The encouraging thing is: God has provided answers to every question! He didn’t leave us hanging. A little exploration, a little scholarship, and just about all curiosities and concerns get satisfied.

Certain ministry moments are significant to people. The deepest ones, of course, are weddings and funerals. But I have found that answering someone’s concerns about losing their salvation, or reconciling a loving God with the God of the Old Testament can be deeply meaningful as well.

If you’ve got questions, I recommend these three books!

Hal HeadshotHal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. New Song is launching a new campus every year and has seen over 17,000 people come to Christ. Hal mentors pastors to grow bigger, better churches. He offers resources to help church leaders at www.pastormentor.com.

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How to Improve your Connection Card Follow Up

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 4.52.00 PMWe are always trying new things, making improvements, arguing about it, and tweaking again how we use Connection Cards to follow up with guests at New Song. These are our best practices.  Right now. See which ideas will work for you.

Why bother with Connection Cards?

Connection cards are the insert in your program where you ask for your guests’ contact info, and you give them opportunity to request information about age groups and ministries in your church.

Everyone in the service fills out a Connection Card every week, or the visitors won’t because they don’t want to shout out that they are the outsiders.  If everyone is doing it, guests probably will, too.

Each week during the announcements, we hold one up and say something like this, “Inside your program is a Connection Card that looks like this. Please fill this out and put it in the offering when it comes around at the end of the service. If this is your first time with us, we’re especially glad you’ve joined us. If you’ll take your Connection Card to our Information Center, we’ll give you a free copy of The God Questions as our way of saying, ‘We’re glad you joined us today!’”

Connection Cards are worth the time we give them in the service and during the week because being able to follow up with guests can make the difference in their sticking around church long enough to find their way to Jesus.

Four Steps in our Connection Card Follow Up

1.  We get our Connection Cards entered on Sunday so we can get busy following up on Monday. It takes an eye for detail to enter them correctly, so we find detail-oriented people and equip them thoroughly. They enter the registration cards from our children and youth ministries as they come in on Sunday, too.

2.  We use Church Community Builder for our database.  We like that we can enter the contact information for individuals and families, and we can set up process queues so a quick check in a box sends an email to the person who should follow up.

3.  Every first-time family gets:

  • an email from us on Monday afternoon
  • a phone call within 48 hours
  • a letter from the pastor in the mail by Thursday.

The email has a link to a short survey on SurveyMonkey.  The phone call is made by a volunteer – not someone who is paid to be nice – so they hear from someone like them. The letter from the pastor thanks them for coming and encourages them to come back next weekend.

4.  By Tuesday night they may also get contacted by our children’s ministry, the youth ministry, the young adult leaders, or by people representing any other boxes they checked. They get the message that we are willing and able to be in relationship with them.

How Connection Cards help us Follow Everyone

1.  We also follow up with people after their second visit.  They get an email from a volunteer on Monday and another handwritten note, but this one contains a gift card for a sandwich, an ice cream or a coffee as a thank you for coming.

2.  After one month, they get a call to check in and help them take their next step in getting connected.

3.  The Connection Cards have checkboxes that we use for communication beyond assimilating newcomers.  Salvation and baptism, child dedication, joining a small group or ministry team, and more, can be checked and will be followed up.

4.  We take attendance based on Connection Cards and follow up with people who have missed three weeks in a row and six weeks in a row.  Those people are in danger of dropping out.

5.  And we update contact info, of course, as it comes in on the weekly cards from the regular attenders.

You might be arguing with me that you don’t have enough visitors each week, or enough manpower, to establish such a thorough system for such a little thing, but I would argue back that if you don’t set it up so you can connect with more guests, you will let them slip away when they come.

Here’s How to Move Forward

1.  Be sure you have a church database that functions to manage information about your families, and to track them through a follow-up process.  Try Church Community Builders if you need a new database. The founders came out of New Song and we are big fans.

2.  Tap the person who is good at database stuff to work with you to get your process set up.  It’s convenient if it is an admin on staff so someone is nearby to make tweaks and keep everyone up to speed.

3.  Build the rest of the follow up team: who will enter the connection cards, who will send the email and the letters, who will make the phone calls to all visitors, and who will make the phone calls regarding specific ministries or information. You may want to hire someone for ten hours a week to manage all your assimilation follow up.

I know that Connection Card follow up is just one thing, but it’s one big thing if you’re looking to grow your church.

If you want more information about Connection Cards and your assimilation system, check out my ebook, Keep Your Guests Coming Back.

Hal HeadshotHal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. New Song is launching a new campus every year and has seen over 17,000 people come to Christ. Hal mentors pastors to grow bigger, better churches. He offers resources to help church leaders at www.pastormentor.com.

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How to Grow your Church in Leaps and Bounds

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 7.29.02 PMA trickle isn’t going to cut it.

You might have wished for a new family or two to join your church every week or two, but that’s not how it works. Churches grow in leaps and bounds.

Over the past ten years, New Song has doubled in size. All of our growth has come from leaps forward during strategic seasons and initiatives, followed by periods of consolidation. First, we attract newcomers. Then we enfold them into the family and ministries of the church.

Three Attraction Strategies

We find these three strategies attract a bunch of new families all at once:

1. Wow Weekends

A Wow Weekend is a weekend service with such an interesting guest speaker that when people hear about it they say, “Wow!” We just hosted a former mob boss who was on America’s most wanted list when he came to Christ. He’s the first person ever to exit La Cosa Nostra and live. “Wow!” Our attendance leaped by 400 people that weekend. Now we’re in the process of enfolding those newcomers.

2. Attractional Campaigns

Twice a year we host a four to six week Church-wide Campaign around a widely felt personal need like family, marriage, finances, or questions people have about God.

Rick Warren wrote the original Church Campaign using his book The Purpose-Driven Life. We grew by 8% during that campaign – and it opened our eyes to the jump in attendance that a well run campaign can bring.

During our next campaign (The God Questions) we grew by 10%. During a campaign on the end times (Future History), we grew by 18%. Using Jonah, we grew 17%.

3. Comeback Events

A Comeback Event is a weekend service or multi-week campaign designed to attract the unchurched and draw-back those who have dropped out of church.

A few years ago, we started having a Back to Church Sunday in September. Outreach, Inc. and Lifeway Publishing have grown it into National Back to Church Sunday. Last year 30,000 churches participated – seeing a 35% increase in attendance that weekend.

We are looking forward to hosting a Comeback Campaign called I Love Sundays in the fall of 2015. The I Love Sundays campaign will help families cope with their super busy lives by re-centering around Sunday rest.

Imagine your church taking a 35% leap in attendance on September 20, and then consolidating that growth during late September and early October in a four-week I Love Sundays campaign.

You can get the first copies of the I Love Sundays book, along with the four-week I Love Sundays Campaign, this summer on PastorMentor.com and Outreach.com.

Your Next Step

Now is a great time to put WOW weekends, church campaigns, and comeback events on your church calendar. We have found that late September, late January, and the Sunday after Easter are the best times because that’s when people are more open to an invitation to something special at church.

Next week, I’ll go into how to assimilate those new families once you get them in the door.

Hal HeadshotHal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. New Song is launching a new campus every year and has seen over 17,000 people come to Christ. Hal mentors pastors to grow bigger, better churches. He offers resources to help church leaders at www.pastormentor.com.

If you enjoyed this post, sign up here to receive updates from Hal delivered right to your inbox.