redesigning church

10 Characteristics of a Pioneer - Part 1


Taking Risks and Stepping Out of the Mold.

Do you value routine over risk? Fitting in over stepping out? Maybe you have settled somewhere in your leadership. Tune in to the first part of our Pioneering series to discover how to get out of your rut.

One of my most recent reads was Marching off the Map by Tim Elmore. It was a phenomenal book that gave great insight into where we are today as a society and how we can connect with the next generation more effectively. I would highly recommend every leader, pastor, communicator, or educator pick up a copy. It certainly has us talking about what we are doing and how we are doing it.

Last week, we gathered as a staff for our monthly training and I discussed the difference between pioneers and settlers. Pioneers march off the map whereas settlers are not so willing to leave comfort behind. For the next four weeks, Pastor Gene and I will be discussing 10 characteristics of a pioneer. 

1. The pioneer is about risk. The settler is about routine.

There are no guarantees of success when you march off the map. But at the same time, there is a guarantee of failure if you don’t and remain a settler. Elmore made a powerful statement when he said, “Settlers will be left in the dust as the young people we lead disconnect from us and find others they can follow to new places. Or, they will forge ahead with no mentors at all.

Pioneers are usually the one with arrows in their back. They are shot at by settlers that have no understanding of their strange new tactics. Being a pioneer is not a comfortable place to be, yet settling is not a chance we should take. We have to bravely march off the map!

2. Pioneers often don’t fit in.

Pioneers have the tendency to feel out of place, especially in a room full of settlers. Instead of just going with the flow, pioneers create their own. They are not conformists, they are reformers, therefore, setting themselves apart from the crowd. They are leaders like Caleb in the Old Testament whom God noted as having a “different spirit.” Caleb went on to inherit the promise while the others didn’t.

Our goal as pioneers is to adapt, not adopt. We need to shift, not drift. We can either resist change until we no longer can, or we can adapt and harness that change powerfully.

Pioneering within the Church

As leaders, we must realize what is permanent and what is temporary. Our mission and vision to make disciples are permanent whereas our methods and programs to do such are temporary. We never compromise what the Bible teaches, but we may change the ways we present those truths.

We must also be constantly focused on our why. We can adapt our what or how to achieve our why, but the why never changes. This is about being focused on our outcomes.

I became passionate about the church at an early age but I fell madly in love with its purpose and vision when Pastor George taught me the Book of Acts in Bible College. It was there that I discovered that the church is God’s original plan and there is no backup. It was there that I saw the difference between our mission and vision and the methods we use to get those things done. It was there that I learned that the church is the hope of the world on a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend. 

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The 6 Major Areas of Church Recovery


Sometimes a church, through moral failure, neglect of appropriate leadership or the absence of vision, finds themselves in a “ground zero” condition.  The damage done is so destructive that recovery seems insurmountable. Even when new leadership comes in with recovery as the immediate vision, it is not automatic nor guaranteed. Everything is on the line and it is a complicated endeavour. 

The recovery process can be broken down into 6 major areas:

1. Legal Requirements

Each church is registered with the government as a charity and therefore has to abide by bylaws and constitutions. In an emergency situation, the constitution states a process that must be followed as to who is responsible for what and how the next leader is to be selected. It also covers the process for removing the senior leader, should it come to that.

All of these processes must be followed and documented. This protects the church from any legal backlash and makes clear who is responsible for what.

Document everything. It is important that each church board review their bylaws and constitution at least annually. They must then either abide by them or follow the proper procedure to change the bylaws that are outdated or encumbering.  

2. Financial Requirements

Start with planning. No one likes to plan for the worst-case scenarios, but it is absolutely vital. The board must have a plan in place to protect itself against an emergency that could destroy the church.

Financially, this might mean setting aside a portion of your monthly income into savings until you have at least three months of expenses in your savings account for those emergency situations.

Some might argue that they can't afford that, but the truth is, I don’t think you can afford not to. It starts with a discussion at the board level as to what the emergency backup plan is.

3. Spiritual Basics

Spiritually, I think it is important for every church to have a mature team in place that knows how to handle spiritual warfare. Make no mistake, the devil is active and loves nothing more than to destroy churches. 

Put into place a mature prayer team. I look for individuals who know how to pray, who can grab onto something in prayer and not let go until the answer presents itself. I look for people who are discreet and honour people with a high level of confidentiality. I want someone who will, in private, wrestle something to the ground in prayer.

In emergencies, our team knows that our first call is to the prayer team to get them on it. Prayer is key in every move we take in the recovery process. 

4. Cultural Transformation 

Culture trumps vision every time. It is important for the pastor – the outgoing one and especially the incoming one – along with the board to know, understand, and implement the desired culture.

If you are looking for a new pastor, it is vital to first understand what your culture is and then find someone who matches that culture. Do not hire someone who is gifted but has a different culture. They will destroy what you have built faster than you could ever imagine. I would highly recommend Dr. Sam Chand’s book “Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code” to learn more about the culture of a church.

5. Succession Plan

I think one of the most important essentials is an emergency succession plan. As John Maxwell says, everything rises and falls on leadership, and I believe he is absolutely right. A church can be thrown into major crisis if something happens to their leader. It is crucial that the current pastor and board have a discussion on succession. Who will replace the current leader? We break it down into 3 categories:

  1. What is the emergency succession plan?
  2. What is the 5-10 year succession plan?
  3. What is the 15-20 year succession plan?

It’s all about being prepared.

6. Emotional Health and Well Being

Through it all, the pastor must also maintain the emotional stability and health of the church body in the turbulence of recovery. Often times as pastors we are asked to comfort and lead in situations in which we are hurting too. Many are unable to carry that weight. It becomes too much and they make irreconcilable mistakes that damage the organization and put it into a more vulnerable position than it already is.

So what’s the answer? I think King David gave us the greatest example of how a leader should lead through a crisis in 1 Samuel 30. In verse 6, in the midst of his pain, it says “He strengthened himself in the Lord.” That’s the key. As leaders, we need to draw our strength from God and lead, even when we are hurting. From that strength, we can lead others to strengthen and maintain the emotional stability within the whole organization.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Church recovery from a ground zero situation can seem like a minefield of explosive issues. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Think through every possible scenario and have a plan in place. If you prepare and nothing happens, great! But if you don’t prepare and something does happen, you will be left scrambling.

While I think this preparation must be done by the lead pastor, even more importantly it must be done by the board of directors. Write it down and make sure everyone is aware of where it is. 

Often times a crisis will distract us from our mission and vision. But the best and fastest way to recover is to get back to the mission. We need to stay the course and show the world that Jesus is the answer and that the church is the hope of the world, and we’re on a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.

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Six Anchors: 40 Days of Hope (Part 2)


We have been hearing amazing feedback since the release of the Six Anchors devotional. It has been encouraging for those currently facing trials and a great reminder for others on where to locate their hope. This is exactly why I wrote this book and I am excited to see results in people's lives because of it. Today, Pastor Gene and I are discussing the last three anchors.

Anchor #4 - The Holy Spirit

While researching hope in the Scriptures, I noticed that the Holy Spirit seemed to be a central figure. In 2 Corinthians 5, the Bible says the Holy Spirit is the guarantor of our hope in Heaven. In John 14, Jesus encouraged His disciples to hope in the Word and said the Holy Spirit would remind them all of what God said. In John 16, Jesus said the Holy Spirit would not draw attention to Himself but would make sense of what is about to happen and out of all that Jesus had done and said.

We can see that the Holy Spirit is the rope that connects us to each of the first three anchors. Just like an anchor is only as effective as the chain attached to it, so are our anchors of hope only effective because of the Holy Spirit.

However, I learned in Acts 2 is that He is not just the rope, but also an anchor Himself. Romans 15:13 says, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." When we get filled with the Holy Spirit, we can overflow with hope.

Anchor #5 - Wisdom

Proverbs 24:14 in the Amplified Bible says this, "Know that [skillful and godly] wisdom is [so very good] for your life and soul; If you find wisdom, then there will be a future and a reward, and your hope and expectation will not be cut off." Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, tells us that wisdom allows us to have eternal hope.

However, wisdom is something we acquire through discipline. It is not simply given to us. There are three initiatives to pursuing wisdom:

  1. Seek Knowledge.
  2. Gain Understanding.
  3. Trust God.

By practicing daily disciplines, we are able to gain knowledge. When knowledge is applied, wisdom is activated.

We can make wise decisions in our daily lives by simply asking a few questions:

  1. Based on my past experiences, what is the wise thing to do?
  2. Based on my current circumstances and responsibilities, what is the wise thing to do?
  3. Based on my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do?

Anchor #6 - The Church

The church becomes the hope of the world when it's central purpose is to join people to Jesus. The natural pull of every local church is to become insider focused. But the church was not intended to exist for itself; it was created to exist for the community it is in - to become the centre of hope by leading people to the hope that is Jesus. When it ceases to be outward focused, it ceases to be an anchor of hope.

Ultimately, each anchor must point back to Jesus. The Word is written to direct people to Jesus. The Holy Spirit connects people to Jesus. Solomon said, "a wise man will win souls," so wisdom points people to Jesus as well. The church must do the same because we are the hope of the world and we are on our God-given mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.

Get your copy of the 6 Anchors devotional today! It is available on Kindle and as a paperback. Find it here.


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Good to Great


The book Good to Great, by Jim Collins, explores why good companies do not make the leap to great. Today, we are going to take a look at what moves a good church to become a great church.

A Good Church vs. A Great Church

Collins defines a great company as one that has a “financial performance several multiples better than the market average over a sustained period.” I think a great church the would be one that has sustained numerical growth, namely through the attraction of unchurched people, better than the average in the same area.

Looking at the evidence and observations of churches that have moved from just being good to becoming great, there are two variables; qualitative and quantitative analysis. By qualitative, we are looking at the quality of ministry, while by quantitative we are measuring the quantity of their effectiveness in numerous areas.

I agree with Collins when it comes to the number one contributing factor to the greats. He said it all starts with leadership. John Maxwell says that “everything rises and falls on leadership” and I absolutely believe that to be true. So, the great churches usually have great leaders at the helm. And, just like Collins discovered, the best leaders are the ones that have a blend of personal humility and professional will. The sustainable great churches aren’t led by the celebrity type pastors, but often by self-effacing, quiet, reserved, even shy leaders who build great leaders around them - but they have an insatiable drive to get better and reach their communities.

A strong leader must be surrounded by strong team members leading their ministries. I have found that it takes more than just a great preacher to grow a church; it also takes great music, great children’s ministry, great pastoral care, and great administration just to name a few. One leader is just not capable of doing all of that on their own, therefore they need a great team around them.

I also believe that great churches are not afraid to confront the brutal facts. What I mean by this is that they have an incredible faith that they will prevail and grow as well as an incredible discipline to confront the most brutal facts of their current reality and adjust accordingly. Great churches also have a clear vision and narrow focus. They know where they are going and they refuse to clutter that vision with busyness and complex programs. 

Another differentiation of great churches is that they continually mess with the methods and move with times without compromising the message. They know that the methods are there to serve the message, not the other way around. So, they will continue to use whatever means necessary to get the gospel out to the world in an understandable way and they don’t get married to their methods. If it’s not working, they are willing to change.

I’ve noticed that churches that attract people from other churches and mainly grow through transfer growth are ones that may have a quick boost in growth, but it often isn’t sustainable. This is because if people switched churches once, they are likely to transfer again when something bigger or better comes to town. In contrast, people that grow in unchurched people and lead them to Jesus are more likely to sustain their growth because people are more likely to stay in the church where they became born again. They are also the group that is most likely to invite their unchurched friends and family to the church which keeps multiplying the growth and is much more sustainable.

Collins breaks down the transformation of companies that go from good to great into 3 broad stages; disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined actions. There is no doubt that these 3 stages translate into the church world.

Disciplined People

When it comes to disciplined people, it is important that the leader leads the way and that the leadership team follows suit; discipline has to flow from the top down. I think this is even more important because the church is largely a volunteer-led organization. Disciplined people is all about having the right people on the right bus - first who, and then what. This is so vital.

I often talk to pastors who say they just don’t have any leaders in their church. I have found that leaders don’t just show up, they are created. What I mean is that the leader (the senior pastor) has to invest in growing his team to become what the church needs. In the process of growing people, you will learn who you have on the bus and what seat they should be sitting in. This process is invaluable to the development of having disciplined people.

I have always set aside time each week and each month to train and develop my leadership team. To me, this might be the most important activity I do as a lead pastor. Paul said in Ephesians that the job of a pastor is to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” Equip means skill develop. So, my role as the pastor is to skill develop people in my church to carry out the work of the ministry. It doesn’t happen by default; it happens by being very intentional about training and developing a team. When you do this intentionally, you will develop the right people on the bus, as opposed to just waiting for the right people to show up. I’ve tried that and I soon ran out of patience waiting for the right people. I’ve found it better to develop the right people from within.

Disciplined Thought

Disciplined thought is about marrying both faith for a big future and the ability to confront the brutal facts of today’s reality. That is a juggling act and requires great discipline. I have discovered that great churches do this really, really well. That is what makes them the best.

I can recall an example of when I’ve had to face the brutal facts. We were getting hundreds saved every year but we were not seeing that translate into disciples. When we studied it, we discovered that we were seeing under 5% retention on our new converts. Grossly dissatisfied, we decided to do something about it. That’s where the My Victory Starts Here book and discipleship plan came from. Last year, we were able to retain 48% of our converts. We still want to improve on that, but that was a drastic increase and greatly grew our church because we were willing to face the brutal facts.

Disciplined Action

Disciplined action is about going to work every day to create the church you envision. This is rolling up your sleeves and working hard. It’s about creating a culture within your organization that will allow the vision to move forward. It’s about being willing to mess with the methods and change what needs to be changed in order to move forward. It really is all about a dogged determination to not settle for anything less than the best.

Level 5 Leadership

In chapter 2, Collins describes a Level 5 Leader as one who “builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.” Former U.S. President Harry S. Truman said this: “You can accomplish anything in life provided you do not mind who gets the credit.” I believe this is so important to sustainability. We need to refrain from the celebrity pastor led church model. Firstly, it is not biblical, and secondly, it can be very short lived. A prime example of this happened just a couple years ago when Mark Driscoll was fired from his church in Seattle. At the time, his church average was 14,000 in attendance. Within a few short months of his leaving, the church no longer existed. It completely disappeared, which is tragic. I believe great churches are led by leaders who don’t care who gets the credit and they operate with incredible humility. In my mind, a positive example of this is Brian Houston. For years, I had no idea who the senior pastor of Hillsong Church was. All I knew was that Darlene Zchech led worship. The music team was more famous, and probably still is more famous, than the lead pastor. I think Brian has done a great job of leading in such a way that it doesn’t matter who gets the credit, and Hillsong Church has truly accomplished much in the process.

Level 4 Leadership

A Level 4 Leader is described as committed to the vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision and higher performance standards. Level 5 Leaders have these Level 4 leadership qualities as well as the ones we previously discussed. I think the biggest battle for all of us “driven” types is the art of delegation and letting go. We do things ourselves because we know we will do it well and it is hard to release a task to someone who may not do as good of a job as we would. However, it is crucial to delegate and release the work to others. They will inevitably make mistakes, but that’s how they will learn. Let them have success and get the credit because what matters, in the end, is not who gets the credit but that the vision is accomplished. So, my recommendation for Level 4 Leaders is to let go and be willing to release.

Good to Great Leaders

At one point, Collins describes a Level 5 Leader as “ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results.” The traditional mindset of a great leader often depicts a person with a high-profile image and a charismatic personality. But, Collins goes on to describe the top leadership characteristics of a leader who has taken a good company to become a great company as “quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated…” There was a day when these characteristics were not true of major players in the church world, especially in North America. I think there has been a subtle transition over the past couple of decades. Churches that are built to last have been led by no-name leaders. I think this is important because if a church is built on a personality, it will only last as long as that individual lasts in ministry. But, if the church is not built solely on a personality, it can navigate the troubled waters of transition and survive generation to generation. It is amazing when that happens. I think in the next 5 to 10 years we are going to see this become more evident than ever before because most of the celebrity pastors are going to retire and then we will see what happens to their churches. Depending on the outcome, we will know whether these pastors were great leaders who built their church on a team and a vision, or if they were just good leaders who built a mega church on a personality.

Good church leaders may look for someone or something to blame for stagnate growth. They may blame the economy, community layoffs, lack of funds, inadequate facilities, their history, the list goes on. Level 5 Leaders look at similar situations and must move forward without placing blame on external factors. I often say that excuses strip you of your power to change. The moment we place blame elsewhere, we remove our ability to solve the problem. We have to be willing to confront the brutal facts, take ownership of the mistakes, and be willing to change the methods. If we can’t do these three things, we will be overcome by the obstacles to growth and will stagnate, or even disappear. It’s vital to observe and act. I think the Level 5 Leaders face just as much adversity as everyone else, however, they respond differently. They hit the realities of their situations head-on and as a result, emerge from the adversity even stronger.

The Law of Velocity

In Chapter 3, Collins made about called Practical Discipline #3 which says, “Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems.” This really stood out to me when I re-read the book a couple of weeks ago. This is about the law of velocity; hitch your wagon to something that is already moving to make it move even faster, rather than trying to kickstart something that isn’t moving at all. I would love it if we in the church world could grasp this concept. The reason I say that is because there are a ton of really great pastors out there who are killing themselves trying to jumpstart a dead or dying church when they could be way more effective in the kingdom if they just attached to churches that have great momentum. There are other pastors who are leading nearly dead congregations in large beautiful buildings. At the same time, there are churches in the same community that are growing in temporary rented facilities or outgrowing their current locations and are in danger of having their lack of facilities inhibit their momentum. What if we were kingdom minded in our communities and married the great facilities with the great churches? What could happen?

Brutal Facts

I am always surprised when I hear a pastor say “numbers don’t matter,” or “it’s not just about the numbers.” When I hear that said, I know their church is struggling numerically. It think it is amazing that pastors make excuses for why their church isn’t growing, or worse yet, they refuse to ask questions as to why it has stopped growing or is declining. Numbers matter! Numbers represent souls and we are all in it for souls. Number mattered to Jesus; He counted everything. We know how many people attended almost every meeting Jesus ever had. The 5000, the 120, the 70, and so on. We need to be willing to count and observe the trends, confront the brutal facts if necessary, and then ask the hard questions to get the proper solution. It’s all about simply refusing to settle for average.

I think the major takeaway from this week's podcast is to start with the determination to push beyond "good" and "good enough". Our nation and our world have no need for good churches; they need great churches. Great churches led by leaders who are determined to make their church grow and are fixed on reaching the unchurched in their community for Jesus. We need great leaders who are determined to be great leaders, who invest in growing themselves and in growing their teams. We need great leaders who are willing to confront the brutal facts and change if necessary. Why? Because the church is the hope of the world and we’ve been given a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.


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The Outside Focused Church Part 4


In our shift to becoming an outside focused church, we received amazing results, but also some pushback. Today, Pastor Ralph Molyneux, our Lethbridge Campus Pastor, shares his experiences throughout the shift.

Pastor Ralph was on staff in Lethbridge when I first arrived over 6 years ago. In fact, he was one of the people that encouraged me the most in my move to the city. He shared the same heart and passion for the church and the unchurched as I did. He too was tired of keeping insiders happy and craved change.

Today, we have Pastor Ralph on the podcast to discuss the shift to becoming an outside focused church. Although it wasn't always easy, he passionately pursued the vision along with me. Listen in as he explains how to manage complaints, the changes the church went through, and much more.

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The Outside Focused Church Part 3


We have covered a lot of ground on the Outside Focused Church in the past couple of weeks. Now, let's take a deeper look at some of the changes that can be made to create such a culture.

Today is the third part of our Outside Focused Church series. Stay tuned for next week when we will be interviewing one of our staff members that survived the transition to the “outside focused” church.

The Original Team

This week, we are going to begin with how I introduced this concept to our original Lethbridge staff. Now, I had an advantage. A few of the staff already knew me. We had met at a number of conferences and they were familiar with the way I did church because I would teach it. So, we already had kind of a head start. I came in and began casting the vision of what church could look like if we began to reach the lost. I promoted the vision of Victory Churches which was to “reach every available person by every available means at every available time with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Then I asked, “Are we doing this effectively?” and “What should we do differently to get better results?” We had some great discussions.

Next, I gave them books to read and took them to conferences where they could learn about other churches that were getting the results we desired. We talked about what those churches were doing, how they were doing it and how we could implement their best practices into our own church. It really was a lot of fun and the team was great in contributing to the process.

Altering the Service

I then began coaching the Service Programming Team into the cultural shift of becoming “outsider focused”. We started with our services and made immediate adjustments to the order. We inserted a welcome at the beginning, which served to welcome everyone to the service and to explain the order of everything so people knew what to expect. Following that, we altered the length of our music portion of the service. We became much more focused on the words we were singing and the excellence in which we were singing them. Music is such a great tool because it is a universal language that everyone understands. So, I felt that if we could raise the standard here, we would then begin to attract more and more people.

Further to all of that, we shortened the length of the messages and added a salvation call at the end of every service. Doing this had a number of results. Firstly, we saw people getting saved every single week. But secondly, we noticed that when we did this every week, our people became a lot more confident in inviting their unchurched friends and family to the service. This is because they knew that each and every week, there would be an opportunity for salvation and this in and of itself caused the church to start growing.

Like I discussed last week, we moved the offering to the end of the service. We felt that unchurched people had preconceived fears about the church just wanting their money. So, we moved the request until after the bulk of the service was over. This seemed to make a huge difference and in fact, we saw our giving go up almost immediately.

Streamlining and redefining the elements of a weekly Sunday service chips away at what a lot of the churched culture holds dear. As someone who grew up in the church, there were many things I had to give up that I would have preferred to keep, in order to most effectively reach the lost. I am a musician and a worshipper so cutting into that time and style was difficult for me. A lot of the complaints we received were from churched people about this, and that made it all the more difficult for me to make the changes. But, I was determined. After studying churches that were reaching the lost and those that weren’t, I saw a marked difference in how they did their services. I did not want to compromise the message or the Holy Spirit, but I did want to reach the lost. And I feel that we have found a great way to be both Spirit-filled and seeker sensitive.

Taking a New Direction

I had been pastoring for almost ten years before I really committed to being outsider focused. I was very disappointed with the results I was getting and frustrated that our church wasn’t reaching the lost or impacting our community. I had this preconceived idea that the church was for churched people. And yet, I saw church people who were not growing spiritually and were just going through the motions in their walk with Christ. In my frustration, I began seeking an answer.

Firstly, I looked through scripture. I noticed how the church in Acts was outsider focused and at the same time, growing and maturing in their walk with Christ. Then, I began studying the churches in Canada, in particular, the ones that were growing and reaching the lost. I did my best to learn everything I could and started to make some changes in my church. When I started seeing results trickle in, I was hooked. I went all in and have been all in since. There is no way I could go back to doing church like I used to.

In my experience, I didn’t really think about particular personality types or ministry gifts and their effect on the process. For me, I looked at the influencers in the church. Who were the people that everyone went to when they had a problem or complaint? When I discovered who these people were, I worked with them first; on the vision and how we were going to implement changes. Then, when we made changes and people had questions or concerns, they would go to these people naturally and the influencers would be able to explain the “why” behind it and their support of it.

We did a whole lot of research. We read some awesome books on the subject like Thom Rainer’s book Surprising Insights From the Unchurched and Andy Stanley’s Deep & Wide. Then we did our own research by talking to our people about whether they felt comfortable inviting their unchurched friends and family to church. When they answered “No”, we asked “Why?” and began making changes immediately. We constantly probe our congregation about how comfortable they are inviting the unchurched to our services. We also ask them what their friends and family thought of the service. Those answers helped us craft services that are both for the churched and the unchurched.

Vitality of Creativity

Creativity is a big part of what we do here. But, we aren't just creative for creativity's sake; we do it for a purpose. There are two main purposes of creativity in our church:

  1. Creativity creates a greater level of expectation among those that attend. I believe the greater the expectation level, the greater the anointing level. Look at Jesus’s own ministry. When the expectation level was low in his hometown, he was unable to do miracles. However, when the expectation level was high, he moved with great power. So, we always want to be aware of the expectation level and do what we can with creativity to keep it high.
  2. We are always looking for the most effective way to communicate the pure message of the Gospel so that even the most unchurched person in the room can grasp the truth. What’s relevant in communication is constantly changing. We live in a very fast paced world and with things like social media, what is relevant is always different. So, to combat this ever-moving target and to fulfill our vision, we engage every sort of demographic we can in the creative process. We use young and old, men and women, the long-time churched and newcomer, and so on. By doing this, we learn how to more effectively communicate to as many people as possible. Before I had any staff, I did this by running ideas by people in my congregation throughout the week. I would even run parts of my message by people to see if it would resonate with them like it did with me.

Creating an Atmosphere

Apart from the services, we also made changes to our facility. But these did not happen for a while. In fact, it was less than just three years ago that we did the renovations. We waited because facility renovations are expensive and we were not ready to invest in that level of change too early. When we did, we intentionally wanted to create an atmosphere that was similar to the culture we wanted to have. We met as a design team and discussed what we wanted the facility to feel like. What we settled on were ideas of a warm, inviting, and modern environment. We travelled to different churches as well as public buildings like art centres and hotels until we had the concept of what we wanted in mind.

It was amazing to see what happened in our church once the renovations were complete. Immediately after they were done, people seemed to stick around a lot longer after the service just to visit with others. Our attendance grew more rapidly in the last three years than it did in the previous four. I think it was because the facility matched the culture and people were more comfortable inviting their friends to church.

Getting People to Remain

Follow-up and discipleship were a major issue right off the bat. We were leading many people to Jesus, but the vast majority of them weren’t staying and getting plugged in. That’s why we developed the “My Victory Starts Here” course and why I wrote the book. We needed to find a way to disciple our new believers effectively and in a simple enough way that they would remain in the church.

Unchurched people can get involved in the church immediately. Obviously, we don’t give them ministry positions, but we do encourage them to serve in the coffee shops, on the setup teams, by greeting, etc. They are more likely to remain and hear the truth taught if they are engaged and volunteering somewhere.

MyCityCare is one of the most visual pieces of evidence of how we impact the churched and unchurched in our communities. It is our way to meet the needs of those around us. We have many projects that we take on within the year that allow us to do just that. It has proven to be a great way to change the community’s perception of the church. Instead of being a weird group of people who hide away in their own building on Sundays, we are a group of organized, concerned citizens who are actually impacting our community. We have had many, many people begin attending our church because of MyCityCare and it also gets our people active in our cities, keeping their focus outward.

One of the major factors that concern church boards and leadership at every level is that changing the way “it’s always been” can affect attendance and finances. We can mess with the methods all we want, but when messing with the methods negatively affects the attendance and finances, people talk, and sometimes, people walk. I read a statement from Andy Stanley in his book 7 Practices of Effective Ministry that said, “We need to focus more on who we are trying to reach than on those we are trying to keep.” That statement hit me as a pastor. I realized that most of my time, efforts, and church finances were dedicated to those we were trying to keep, instead of on those we were trying to reach.

This doesn’t mean we should ignore the insiders or their concerns. It just means that the “why” must be clearly communicated in everything that we do and that we must make sure our motives are pure and focused on reaching people for Jesus. Jesus faced a lot of criticism from the churched who complained about who He was reaching. However, He had a clear focus and said His purpose was to seek and to save those who were lost. At the same time, He took the time to work with insiders like Nicodemus and others as well.

A while back, we implemented 18-minute messages in our services. This is quite the challenge. It is a lot tougher to preach in 18 minutes as opposed to say 45 minutes. It takes me a lot longer to prepare the messages because I have to be precise and focused throughout the entire thing. But, the reaction from the churched and unchurched has been awesome. They have been very responsive and we have seen our online downloads of the messages skyrocket since shortening them.

I have received multiple hesitations from other pastors about this change though. They’ve said that change is hard and they may receive pushback from their congregations after a change of this magnitude. This is a good example of the importance of preaching the change before implementing it. You must change the heart thinking and culture before you will be able to effectively change the systems and general structure. The people need to be passionate about reaching out and need to see a future where their loved ones get saved through the church. There will always be some resistance, so it is important to have your plans settled in your heart first.

Relationship with God

Over the past couple years, I think these changes have brought me a lot closer to God personally. It is difficult to explain but I think there is a level of peace in my heart that I didn’t have for a long time as a pastor. I believe it is because I know I am fulfilling the great commission and am participating with Him in building His church. I can tell that my prayer life has changed because my prayers are a lot less “God bless me, God bless my church, God help me,” and more “God I pray for this person, God give me the words to speak to this person, God give us boldness to keep going.”

I keep pushing myself to explore every opportunity to create churches unchurched people love to attend because, quite frankly, I love the church. I wasn’t always able to say that. In fact, for most of my life, I simply tolerated the church. But, now that I have seen what the church can become and the impact that it can have in lives and communities, I am absolutely in love with the church. It has the potential to be the hope of the world, on a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.   


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The Outside Focused Church Part 2


The message is sacred but the methods are not. What can churches change before, during, and after the service to best reach the unchurched?

Last week, we discussed our recent series “Whatever it Takes”. In this series, I spoke about the fact that the church is not a building nor a gathering, it is a movement, and movements move. We talked about how the early church prayed differently than we do; they asked for boldness to keep preaching the Word, rather than safety despite the death threats they had been receiving. We talked about how the church is a God idea, that we need to get on His side and participate in what He is building, rather than just asking him to be on our side. We talked about what it takes to be a disciple and how Paul was discipled, that we each have a responsibility to reach one and teach one. We talked about not making it difficult for outsiders to come to God. We talked about how the message is sacred while the methods are not. And we talked about being dedicated to the heavenly vision, to reach outsiders and to bring those in darkness to the light. If you have not heard the entire series, I would highly recommend you listen to the messages. They are available on our church website, as well as on iTunes under MyVictory Church. 

[bctt tweet="The church is a movement and movements move. #church #whateverittakes" username="kellystickel"]

This week, we will be discussing appearances; what a Sunday looks like to both the traditional Church member as well as the totally unchurched visitor. Let’s begin.

In theatre, every action has a beginning, middle, and end. When the church takes action to be outsider focused, the same is true; there is a beginning, middle and end to the action. The service is the middle-action and that is where we will start.

The Middle Action

When it comes to transitioning a service to becoming more outside focused, I would not recommend a sudden change. That could be too abrupt for some. However, there are a lot of little things to consider when creating a service the unchurched will understand and enjoy. Everything from how we greet and welcome people, to the order of service, to the language we use in the service, to the length of service and elements used in the service (such as music), to the decor and facility set-up. There is so much to consider, and it is important to view every element through the eyes of someone who has never been to our church or might not understand our traditions. I think it is important to note that you don’t have to compromise the message to make it plain to a newcomer. Jesus was a master at making complex spiritual things understandable to his audiences. We should do the same.

When we began the transition in our church, we slightly changed the order of service. We added a welcome from a service host at the beginning for the purpose of informing the newcomer what to expect. A simple explanation of what worship is or how long the service will be really helps newcomers feel at ease. The second change we made immediately was moving the offering to the end of the service. We had discovered that one of the greatest fears of newcomers was that the church just wants their money. So, we felt that instead of singing a bunch of songs they did not know and then promptly asking for their money, we would move the offering to after the message and right before the close of the service. This way, they have received everything and may have given their life to Jesus. People don’t mind paying for their meal after they have eaten it. But, we still tell our visitors that they have to feel no obligation to give. This is just to put them at ease so that they can receive the message and hopefully connect with God in a life-transforming way.

Someone who is not familiar with church will be very nervous coming in. They have no idea what to expect or whether they will fit in and they come in guarded because of that. If we are not welcoming or friendly towards them, or if we begin our service with songs they don’t know and are all singing along and doing the same actions, then we subconsciously communicate to them that they don’t fit. It doesn’t matter how hungry they are for God, the vast majority of them will not come back because they feel like outsiders.

Because we as churched people are used to doing church the same way all of the time, and because it suits us just fine, any change we make is looked at skeptically. I was aware of that as a pastor, so before we made changes, I would first preach the change. I would explain from scripture why we need to change our approach. I then visited each of the longest standing members in our church and, after explaining my heart and reasoning, I asked their permission to make the changes. Every single one of them gave me their permission and we moved ahead. We still had a few people resisting the change, but for the most part, everyone was on the same page — especially when we started seeing the results of the changes and started seeing unchurched people giving their hearts to Jesus week after week.

The Beginning Action

We also made changes to the experience before the service even began. Before, attendees would simply come into the parking lot and into the church on their own. They were expected to find their own way. But, we started enlisting very excited volunteers to greet people as they drove in, holding signs that read  things like “Welcome” and “Honk if you’re excited to be here”. We also had a sandwich board set up that read, “If this is your first time, flash your lights”, and when they did, there was a parking lot team ready to direct them to a parking stall, specifically designated for new people. We then had hosts that would escort them into the building, get them a coffee, take them to the kids wing if they had little ones, and then help them find their way around the facility, showing them the bathrooms and helping them find a good seat in the auditorium.

There are different dynamics in welcoming an unchurched visitor versus a traditional church visitor. I believe every church claims to be a friendly church, but we wanted much more than that; we wanted to be a church where people made friends. We wanted more than a personal touch, more than just a general greeting at the door. We wanted the newcomer to make a connection with someone and be able to leave saying, “I made a friend there.” This led to a more personalized hosting system. Rather than just having greeters at the door, we had our volunteers watch for people who appeared to be new to the church and encouraged our team to befriend them; to walk them around the facility, buy them a coffee from one of our coffee bars, help them find a good seat in the auditorium and then follow up with them after the service.

We also implemented visual and physical changes in our foyer. We added a Starbucks coffee shop so that newcomers saw something familiar upon walking through the doors. I felt this would quickly put a nervous newcomer at ease. Like walking into a coffee shop for the first time, it wouldn't matter if they knew someone or not. They would be at ease. We also added couches and bar tables and chairs for people to sit and visit. We changed our signage to be more readable for new people, replacing words like “sanctuary” to more familiar words, in this case “auditorium”. We ensured guests could read the signage and easily find their way to bathrooms, kids check-in, and so on.

There were challenges to changing these first impressions. One of the biggest trials was getting the right people in our congregation to fully understand the “why” behind it all and then getting their help to make the changes. We needed our first impressions team to understand not only what we wanted to do, but why we were doing it. We didn’t want them to fulfill a task as much as we wanted them to participate in the vision of reaching people for Jesus. That meant that the volunteers needed to be fully aware of how nervous new comers were and how to make them feel comfortable. We had to equip them with the right language to do so, making sure it was not insider church talk. They needed to understand that some of the unchurched people coming in were hurting and might look and act differently in comparison to the churched. These people would have to be treated properly so as not to make it difficult for an unchurched person to find Jesus.

The Ending Action

We adjusted everything. But, one of the big things we began doing differently was how we closed the service. We close each service by telling those attending what to do next in order to grow in their spiritual walk with God. We tell them to:

  1. Come back next Sunday.
  2. Join a Connect Group.
  3. Read their Bible daily. 
  4. Get involved in our church by joining one of our volunteer teams. 
  5. Invite someone to the service next week. 

We do this every Sunday. The regular attenders hear it all the time, and may get tired of it, but it’s not for them, it’s for the newcomers. This is how they can learn to become part of the church by making the next steps as clear and simple as possible. We also have newcomers fill out a connect card and we then send them a handwritten welcome from me early the following week.

Today we have looked at the Sunday experience, but creating churches unchurched people love to attend hits on the other 167 hours in a week as well. I think our MyCityCare program has made a huge impact in this area. It is a program designed to meet the six needs in our community that Jesus mentioned in Matthew 25; food, water, housing, clothing, health, and justice. We have found that reaching out to our community as a church has accomplished two major things. First of all, our community is far more receptive to the Gospel after we meet their needs. Jesus did it this way, and we are to follow His example. Secondly, it really helps the church people to keep their focus outward. It is very rewarding to help someone in need. The feeling is addictive and one that keeps us outsider focused.

It’s easy to drift back into being insider focused and fighting that drift requires leadership that is intentional everyday. The fight is often within ourselves to stay the course. I am motivated by the stories I hear of lives being changed by Jesus, marriages being restored, addictions being overcome, sickness being healed, and hope being restored all because someone began a relationship with Jesus. It is amazing to see God go to work on a life and there is really no other answer that is ever as effective as Jesus. Truly, the church is the hope of the world, and we’ve been given a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.


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The Outside Focused Church


The natural tendency of the local church is to stay insider focused. But in order to accomplish our mission, the church must become outsider focused. What should the church do to reach unchurched people?

In our churches, we just finished a series entitled “Whatever it Takes” based on the early church in the Book of Acts. It is so easy to get inspired by the men and women God used to get the church off the ground. Their courage and determination to spread the Gospel to the masses is incredible. This time, going through Acts, I was caught by how they thought and how they prayed. I compared their mindset and prayers with my own, and I admittedly felt a little ashamed by my small thinking and weak prayers. They prayed for boldness to keep preaching the Gospel to those in need, in the face of life threatening danger. I tend to pray for safety, for protection, and for blessings for me and my family. “Whatever it Takes” was a challenging series and I hope I can move forward from here with the same courage and focus of the early church.

Keeping vs. Reaching

Today, I am going to work on answering some questions we have received from one of our listeners. They began by stating, “The tendency in a church is to focus most of our time, effort and energy on those sitting right in front of us each Sunday morning”. If we turn again to the Book of Acts, we can begin to learn how the early church focused their efforts.

As a pastor, I find it easier and more natural to focus more on who I am trying to keep, however, the church in the Book of Acts focused their thinking on those they wanted to reach. In Acts 4, they prayed for boldness to continue preaching, despite the fact that they were just threatened with a death sentence by the High Priest. They were focusing more on who they wanted to reach, and less on who they were trying to keep. In Acts 15, they had their first board meeting to discuss which of the Old Testament laws they would keep and which they would get rid of; namely in regards to circumcision. James and Peter boldly decided “to not make it difficult for the Gentiles to come to God”, voting against the archaic practice. That was a bold decision. It may have cost them a significant portion of the Jewish members in the church, who would have deeply disagreed with them discarding Moses’ laws and their traditions. But, James and Peter decided to focus more on who they were trying to reach, as opposed to who they were keep. These are just two examples but the entire book displays this mentality of the first church. This mindset is why the church moved forward with such power and influence.

The Balance

Our listener went on to say, “There is nothing necessarily wrong with this [the tendency of the church to focus time, effort and energy on those sitting right in from of them each Sunday] but how do you effectively communicate that the balance may be off and that there needs to be more emphasis put on reaching and bringing in and compelling the unchurched to come in so they can become part of God’s family and then the local church’s family?

For me, I am not sure there is a balance. If I am going to lean one way or another, I would prefer to lean towards focusing on those I am trying to reach. I believe the best way to effectively communicate this emphasis is through the Lead Pastor from the pulpit. It is easy to preach this focus because Jesus made it His focus. He said, “I have come to seek and to save that which is lost.” He modelled this purpose in everything he did. The early church then followed his example. 

When I arrived in Lethbridge over 6 years ago, I recognized a church that had become insider focused. I believe this happens naturally to every church over time. It takes a regular course of correction from the pulpit by the Lead Pastor to counter this natural drift. When I discovered this problem in Lethbridge, I began preaching about being outsider focused and went through the Book of Acts. This is why I spoke through the Book of Acts again this past month; it was time to correct our church and prevent any insider drift from taking place again. I don’t think any change can happen effectively in a church until it has been preached passionately. If people can see it in the Word, they will go to work making it happen in their lives and in the church. That is the power of the Word. So, it must be preached first and then regularly in order to bring a change of direction in the church.

Waiting on the Holy Spirit

Next, our listener says this: “I find some of the responses from church members when being asked the question of what could or should we do to reach people are, ‘Well if they are really searching and truly need to become saved, the Holy Spirit will draw them in.’ My question to you Pastor Kelly is: If we are to wait until the Holy Spirit draws people into the church, what do we do with the Great Commission, to ‘Go into all the world and make disciples’ ?” 

I have heard this from a lot of well meaning Christians. They are waiting on a move of God. The only problem with this thinking is that God has already moved. He has done everything needed in order for salvation to happen. Jesus took care or the sin problem and made relationship with Him accessible to everyone. Next, He sent the Holy Spirit. When Peter and the 120 received the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, they went out and preached. The Holy Spirit did not compel people in; He empowered them to go out.

The Holy Spirit’s job is not to draw people in; they don’t have the Holy Spirit, we do. The Holy Spirit’s job is to work in us and through us to go and reach. Paul said this in Romans 10: Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”  We are the ones to preach. It’s on us.

If it is the Holy Spirit’s job to bring people into my church, then why does he like some churches more than others? If one church is growing and seeing souls saved and one is not, isn’t he playing favourites? Why does He like their church more than mine? It is like a farmer who has a field right next to the field of another farmer. If one reaps a bumper harvest and the other doesn’t, is it God’s fault? Or does it reflect on the skill of the farmer? The farmer can’t make a plant grow, only God can do that. But, the farmer plays a big role in the process. Has has to prepare the soil, plant the seed, fertilize the seed, water the field, get rid of the weeds, and collect the harvest. God made the crop grow, but it was the farmer who had to skillfully work the field to reap the harvest. The same is true in the church. It is God who saves, but it is us who have to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, and reap the harvest.

Designing a Service

Continuing on, the listener has received this answer in response to the question "What could or should we do to reach people?": “We can’t limit the elements of our service (lessen the music time or hold back from going really deep or shortening sermons or preaching on topics rather than whatever God would lead the pastor to preach each week) just so unchurched feel more comfortable.” This begs the question, how should the church “go deep” and for whom and when?

I believe each church needs to go deep, but each church has to reach. So, are we preparing our services for those we are trying to keep more than for those we are trying to reach? These are great questions and ones that I have wrestled with for a long time. One thing I discovered in our church is that, the way we were designing our services was creating completely dependant followers. What I mean by that is, as a team, we had to define what a “disciple” was in order to go and make them. we noticed how John wrote to the early church in 1 John 2. He wrote, “I write to you little children, I write to you young men, and I write to you fathers.” He was addressing three different groups in one church, based on their spiritual maturity. Our team looked at that and knew we must have those three groups in our church as well.

A little child is completely dependant on someone else. They need someone to feed them and clean up their messes. A young man is strong and independent. In fact, John wrote that when he said, “I write to you young men because you are strong in the Word and have overcome the evil one.” Young men are strong because they have the ability to feed themselves. When we discovered this, we noticed that we were designing our services in such a way that kept the congregation as dependants—as little children. We were trying to preach people full on Sunday’s by giving them heavy meat, instead of preaching them hungry so that they could go and feed themselves. Christians were never meant to get all of their spiritual meat in a Sunday gathering; they were meant to get it from the Word on their own. The language of little children is “I’m not being fed,” because they are completely dependant on someone else to feed them. So, we endeavoured to get people to begin growing themselves. When they do, you are not “limiting” their growth by cutting back on anything in your services because they are not solely dependent on you anymore. 

The Holy Spirit and the Unchurched

Now, is there a difference in the way and in the relevance of the Holy Spirit as He moves in the hearts of the churched versus the unchurched? I believe so. Look at what Jesus told the 120 before they received the Holy Spirit. They were followers of Him yet He told then to wait until they received the Holy Spirit before they went and preached the Word. This exemplifies the purpose of the Holy Spirit as well as the difference in His role within a believer versus a non-believer. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to the church; it’s for the believers and the unchurched will not recognize Him. In fact, Paul said that, to the unbeliever, the Holy Spirit will appear like foolishness.

So, the Holy Spirit is to guide and comfort the church, and is also a source of boldness. Our job is to be the preachers, to be the ones who compel them to come meet Jesus. We have to tell them, teach them, and explain to them. That is why Paul warned the church in Corinth to be careful with the gifts of the Spirit in the presence of unbelievers. They need to become believers before they will fully appreciate who He is and what He can do in and through us.

A final response to the question, “what could and should the local church do to reach unchurched people” is this: “People will be attracted to our uncompromising elements of the service.” However, how would unchurched people know whether the “elements of a service” are compromising or uncompromising?

This saddens me, because it is not biblical. Paul explained his approach to reaching the lost in 1 Corinthians 9. He said, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” To me, this doesn’t sound like compromise; this sounds like someone who is dedicated to reaching as many people as possible. When churches say “people will be attracted to our uncompromising elements”, it is like Paul saying, “because I am a Jew, the Gentiles will be attracted to God through my traditions and the law.” Paul realized that to them, it would be foolishness, even though the law is a part of the Bible. He said he became like them and spoke in a way they would understand, in order that he may win some. We see him do this in Acts 17 while he was in Athens. He quoted their poets as a part of his sermon when he said, “in him we live and move and have our being.” That is a direct quote from a poem by Epimedes of Crete in reference to Zeus. Most Christians today would accuse Paul of compromise, yet he was successful in planting a church in Athens.

Did Paul compromise? No. The guideline for me is to keep the message sacred, not the methods. The message is Jesus and His resurrection; I will never compromise that. The methods we use to preach that message are totally up for discussion. Our methods and traditions are the music we play, the order of service, the length of service, the length of music, the type of altar calls, the dress code, the language we use etc. When churches that are reaching the unchurched are criticized, it is usually over the fact that they are using different methods than what are traditional. It is rarely over the fact that the message is incorrect. We need to learn to discern the message from the methods and be open to messing with the methods in order to open people up to receive the message. This will help us “win some”.

In the weeks to come, we will go deeper into this subject. This approach to ministry challenges every church to do things relevant to the unchurched as well as the churched. I would be lying if I said I didn’t regularly wrestle with my traditional preferences and with the willingness to lay them down for the sake of reaching someone with the gospel. It is an easy trap to fall into; we all have the natural tendency to focus more on those we want to keep than on those we want to reach. But we have to do everything we can to resist that tendency and keep our focus on the mission. Why? Because the church is the hope of the world, and we’ve been given a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.


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How to Design the Culture of Your Organization


Culture is prominent in every organization, whether that organization realizes it or not. It s how the organization feels—it’s the heart of the organization. It is more powerful than vision, mission or strategy and it happens by default or by design.

I talk about culture often and that’s because when I discovered that culture is more powerful than vision, mission or strategy it became a focus and one that we decided to design on our own. Culture is prominent in every organization, whether that organization realizes it or not. It happens by default or it happens by design. Culture is how the organization feels—it’s the heart of the organization.

It’s based on how the organization naturally behaves, thinks, and feels. Its why Tim Hortons feels different than a Starbucks or why an A&W feels different than the Keg. It’s about the atmosphere, the behaviours, attitudes of everyone in the organization, etc.

So, about 4 years ago we decided to design the culture we wanted to work in. So, as a staff we took 3 months in our weekly staff meetings and designed the kind of church we all wanted to work in. I asked the team questions like, “what do you value most?” or “what are our non-negotiables? The things we are doing that we just can’t imagine not doing anymore?”  And when the team started answering them, we wrote all of the answers down on a huge whiteboard and then the next week, I asked the same questions again until we had exhausted all of the answers. Then we took all of the answers and began to see similarities in many of them and we narrowed them down to ten simple cultural codes we try to live by.

[bctt tweet="If you don’t design your culture, you will be a slave to it" username="kellystickel"]

It was a lot of work. But again, culture will happen by design or by default. I’d rather design my culture than have it happen by default, because culture will determine what vision, mission, or strategy will work or not work. If you don’t design your culture, then you will be a slave to it and it will become much more difficult to implement a vision or strategy within your organization. It was a lot of work for us to design the culture we wanted to work in, but I’m telling you, the 3 months we spent were maybe the most important 3 months we ever spent as a staff because that investment has allowed all of us to move the vision forward at a much more productive rate.

Culture Code: We Mess With The Methods

We guard our hearts against the thought that “we’ve never done it that way"

Just that one code would shut down a lot of traditional thought about ministry.  When a ministry removes that phrase from the daily dialogue of their staff, what happens? Well, awesomeness happens! Creativity happens. Permission to look at things differently happens. Permission to change things up happens. We simplified this desire in the simple statement “We mess with the methods.” This allows all of our people to challenge the process safely and to look at new ways of doing things. It also subtly gives us a guideline to walk within—when we say we mess with the methods it also tells us that we don’t mess with the message. The message is sacred, the methods are not.

Guarding our hearts is key to effective leadership. I read a statement from someone that said that culture is the “heart of the organization.” The first thing that came to my mind was Solomon’s statement in Proverbs 4 when he said, “above all else, guard your heart.” Of course he’s talking to us personally, but I think it is just as important for an organization to “guard its heart” or in other words “guard its culture.”

The rest of that scripture says that “out of our hearts flows the issues of life” and the word “issues” refers to boundaries.  That takes this thought to a whole different level.  The Hebrew word for issues can be defined as a fence or property boundary. So, take that in context and it means that the culture you design in your organization will determine the boundary of the vision you can undertake. That puts a whole new level of importance on designing the right culture for your organization!

[bctt tweet="The culture you design will determine the boundary of the vision you undertake. " username="kellystickel"]

Culture Code: We Never Waste A Crisis

We guard our hearts against being overwhelmed by problems

The typical church’s schedule can be a whirlwind of activities and then from outside the whirlwind comes a crisis.  One way we guard our hearts is by being aware that dealing with crisis is part of what we do. Imagine a doctor or an EMT being overwhelmed by crisis? They don’t because, that is what they are there for. Sometimes, in the middle of a crisis situation, I have to remind myself and our team that this is what we are there for. Part of our job is to help people through a crisis and to point them to the One who is the hope—the anchor for their soul—in the middle of the chaos. That means that we as pastors and church leaders need to know where our hope comes from and who is our source of peace. We need to be anchored in our faith in God in order to bring hope to others.

One thing I do is ask them if they see an opportunity in the crisis. Hidden in every problem is an opportunity. Dr. George Hill calls this “crisitunity.” Did you know that more millionaire’s were made in the Great Recession than in any other time in history before that? These were people who saw opportunity in the middle of a crisis when others only saw problems. So, I try to focus on finding the opportunity and try to focus my team on the same.

Culture Code: We Lead With Vision

We guard our hearts against becoming reactionary

One culture code that I see modelled here on a day to day basis can be one of the most challenging.  MyVictory is a busy place, stuff happens on a regular basis, opportunities abound. One code that proves valuable over and over again is this one: We guard our hearts against becoming reactionary”. This is key, because it is so easy as leaders to lead by reaction instead of with vision. Because part of our job involves problem solving it is so easy to slip into the whirlwind of just reacting to the next problem.

The best leaders get out in front of the problems by leading with vision. Solomon said it this way, “the wise see trouble coming and avoid it.” One way of avoiding trouble is by leading with vision and speaking the solution before the problem becomes a problem. This statement is really about keeping your eyes up and leading ahead of the problems. It’s also about having an agricultural paradigm rather than a mechanical one. What I mean by that is a mechanic only fixes things, whereas a farmer plants seed today in order to reap a harvest down the road. An agricultural paradigm is realizing I can plants seeds of vision today that will solve the problems of tomorrow before we even get there.

Culture Code: We Need To Know

We guard our hearts against secret cliques and under-communication.

New staff members face challenges beyond just their new job description, often its the challenge of understanding the culture when it’s not written or talked about. It’s especially difficult for new staff members to come into a culture with a long history, especially when existing staff members have lived that history. New staff members ask questions and often get “readers digest” type answers.  Unintentionally, existing staff may give incomplete information. It’s hard for those who lived history to clarify it from the perspective of a new staff person. For growing churches, hiring and expanding their staff is constant. 

Our thought and simple statement is “We need to know.” I hate the statement “this is on a need to know basis and you don’t need to know.” This thinking creates an incredibly political atmosphere that is deadly to teamwork and buy in. We do everything possible to let people know everything and to avoid secrets. This has become increasingly difficult as we have grown so quickly and there is a lot that is happening. But the intent is to avoid secrets and to do what we can to over communicate everything. One way we have done this is by resisting becoming an organization that communicates only from the top down. We all participated in creating these culture codes and we all enforce them. As much as is possible, we try to involve as many people as possible in the planning of events and strategies to keep everyone on the need to know basis and to avoid information only flowing from the top down.

Culture Code: We Are All In

We guard our hearts against an attitude of “that’s not my job”.

Traditionally, job descriptions were an end all for discussions about whose job it is. Our culture code of we guard our hearts against an attitude of “that’s not my job” takes that conversation off the table. 

"We are all in" was important to us because we didn’t want to slip into a rut of becoming territorial with doing only our job and not being willing to help someone else do theirs even if we saw they could use our help. I’ve been in church all my life and I  have seen the habit of people walking past a piece of garbage in the hall, unwilling to pick it up because that’s not their job, or of not being willing to help haul equipment in to the auditorium because they were not part of the set up team. We’re all in. We all can pitch in and help anyone, anywhere, at any time. That’s how we guard our heart against becoming territorial in our positions and against the attitude of “that’s not my job.” 

Purposely Design Your Culture

Culture Codes shape the “personality” of a local church or business. Guarding our heart specifically on a set of codes, by definition of culture, sets a pattern of thinking, acting and feeling for our people to mirror. Every church has a culture, whether it’s by default or by design. We chose to design ours because we wanted to created an atmosphere that was going to be welcoming to anyone and everyone who came through our doors. And we regularly hear positive comments from first time visitors about how they felt coming into our building. I want to challenge every pastor to look at their culture and if there is something that doesn’t feel right, work on redesigning the culture before you implement vision in that area. And I must caution every leader listening. While you might like some of our culture codes and want to implement them in your church or business, I want you to know that it was the process of working them through together as a team that was probably more important than what we came up with because we are all very passionate about these codes and we all guard them together. So, take the time to work through as a team to design the culture that works for you because that will help you stay on mission to reach every available person at every available time by every available means with the Gospel of Jesus Christ by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.

If you’re listening and would like a copy of our culture codes, you can download the complete set here.

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Authentic verses Trendy Leadership


We’ve got the most important message in history to communicate. We can’t become married to our methods by either getting stuck in the past or by compromising the message by focusing too much on being trendy. So how do you find the balance?

Bill George first coined the term “authentic leadership” back in 2003.  He said “Authentic Leaders demonstrate 5 qualities: 

  1. They understand their purpose They practice solid values
  2. They lead with the heart
  3. They establish connected relationships
  4. They demonstrate Self-discipline

They Understand Their Purpose

Trends in the church today go after technical effects on stages as well as current technology for communicating within and outside the church. A common concern is that these leadership trends distract from the church's purpose. That "trendy leaders" lack purpose, dilute purpose or even vary in their purpose. So, how can an authentic leader maintain a firm grip on their “God given purpose” in a world of trendy technology? 

There is a fine line to walk here and I believe it all comes down to our motives. I have no problem with using the latest technology and in fact I would encourage the church to do so, as long as technology is the slave and not the master. Our vision is to “reach every available person by every available means…” and technology is a “means” that can enhance the spreading of the message and is a means of communication that if we use properly can be a very effective tool. 

But, if we are using technology to just be trendy or as cool as the church down the street or whatever, then we are in danger of being slaves to technology instead of using it as a tool to communicate what is most important, the message of Jesus. 

We have been accused by the critics of "spirit contemporary" as not only employing the latest technology just to be trendy but also as being conservative and that we have compromised our core values. Conservative; referring to our methods of communicating the Gospel and how those methods aren’t always seen as “charismatic” in comparison to other spirit-filled churches. But I believe in the authenticity of being "spirit contemporary" in reaching the unchurched!

There are a couple of things I have done as a pastor that have led me to our style of communication. Firstly, I am results oriented, and as a Victory pastor, our vision is to “Reach every available person by every available means at every available time with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” So, I base our effectiveness as a church on that vision—are we reaching the unchurched?

Early on in my ministry I would have answered “no.” And that bothered me greatly.

After investigating myself and my church and studying churches who were actually reaching the unchurched I discovered that it wasn’t the message that was the problem it was our methods of communicating that message that was the problem.

Secondly, I studied the Bible—especially Jesus and the early church—not just for the message they were preaching but the methods they used to communicate it. I discovered that Jesus was very contemporary in his delivery. He used relevant stories depending on the audience he was talking to. So did the early church leaders—for instance Paul’s approach in Athens in Acts 17.

Paul spoke directly to our style of communication especially in regards to the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 15 and he instructed the church to NOT be overly charismatic in the presence of the unchurched so as not to scare them away from what they needed most—Jesus. So I have taken my cue from that.


They Lead with Their Heart

What do traditional leaders need to grasp in this trendy but authentic move of God?

It really is a fine line between being authentic and being trendy. I think you can do both if you keep the message sacred and the methods flexible. The key for traditional leaders is to judge your fruit. Are you getting the results you are wanting? If your vision is to make disciples or to reach people for Jesus, ask “how are we doing?” If we aren’t reaching the unchurched then we may need to study our methods and find a more effective way to communicate.

I would suggest traditional leaders connect with the younger generation in your church and get their help in communication. I wouldn’t consider myself “old” yet or out of touch, but I rely heavily on the younger generation to aid in our communication. Our media team are all in their 20’s. They know what is connecting with people today and I lean on them heavily, not with the message, but with the methods of delivery of that message.

They Establish Connected Relationships

Today, relationship building is so different than it was 10 years ago. With the ground swell of social media and cell phones—which are designed to keep people connected—authentic relationship building is far different than it used to be. As a pastor, my ability to connect with people is far different than it was when I started 20 years ago. Home visits were common. Today, I have found they only work with the older generation.

The younger generation doesn't want the pastor to come to their home—that feels like an invasion of privacy for them. They’d rather meet at a coffee shop or restaurant—some place neutral. Also, in the past we would use the phone a whole lot more to connect with people. Today, the younger generation feels connected to when you reach out through Facebook or Instagram or Snap Chat. Often a simple text is better than a phone call.

Again, the purpose is not the means, but the ultimate goal. And in this case, if the ultimate goal is to build relationships, it is important to study what is the most effective means to connect based on who you are trying to connect with rather than on what you are most comfortable with. It is easy to lose touch if you are married to the methods that are most comfortable for you.


They Demonstrate Self-Discipline

Change Your Communication Methods

The extremes of Authentic Leadership have declared leaders should just be “who they are”, but bad behaviour shouldn't be justified for the sake of authenticity.  Pretending to be perfect isn’t authentic, but “keeping it real” isn't a license for excusing bad behaviour.

I see this principle violated nearly every day by well meaning Christians who are just trying to keep it real and are more afraid of what they consider compromise than they are with reaching people. Today’s generation doesn’t communicate in the same way as previous generations.

[bctt tweet="Effective communication is not what I think I said, but how it is understood by the other person. " username="kellystickel"]

The key is to understand how they communicate and to remember that effective communication is not about what I think I have said, but how it is understood by the other person. Direct and blunt confrontation is not as accepted as it was in past generations.

There is more of an emphasis on acceptance and authentic relationships—so communicate that way. Jesus did. He built relationships first and then spoke truth. He associated and built relationships with people that shocked the religious—just look at Matthew 9 when he befriended Matthew, a tax collector and all of his friends. It drove the Pharisees crazy. He still got his message across, but he didn’t tell them what they did wrong and where they were missing it. He became their friend, and Matthew became one of his most trusted followers because of it.

Jesus’ strongest truths were spoken to those He had relationships with. I find Jesus lived a balance of both care and candour. We must follow his example and communicate in the same way he did. You can’t “speak truth” on Facebook and expect that you will change someone’s opinion because you told them the truth. You must build relationships first and build trust by listening before talking—that takes incredible self-discipline for most of us.

Become Comfortable Changing Style

My upbringing in the church looks dramatically different from my “style” today. I learned to separate the message from the methods. The message is sacred, the methods are not. I had incredible help along the way from great leaders such as Dr. George Hill and Pastor Leon Fontaine, who are master communicators of the message but have used incredible methods along the way to communicate that message. They were willing to mess with the methods in order to more effectively communicate the message. That gave me permission to do the same. It’s all about the results and bearing fruit. If I keep the message sacred and the methods fluid, I will make disciples but if I either compromise the message or get stuck in my methods, I will stop bearing fruit.

It is a fine balance and one that we must constantly pay attention to as pastors.

Properly Implement Fresh Ideas

We all hunger for fresh ideas in ministry. I think copying what works for someone else is okay, in fact I’d encourage it in most cases. However, where things break down is when we don’t understand or give enough respect to the aspect of culture. Culture trumps vision. In this case, if I take someone else’s vision and place it into my culture, my culture will win every time and the vision won’t work.

So how can a leader adapt what someone else is doing into their culture? First, pay attention to your culture and if you want to use what works for someone else in your situation you must first change your culture before introducing the new vision. For pastor’s this means first preaching the “why” and addressing behaviours and attitudes within the church before changing methods. This is how you test the relevance of an idea before you implement the idea.

In I Chronicles 12:32 we read that the soldiers in King David’s army “understood the times and knew what Israel should do”.  Such insight allows authentic leaders to study complex situations, gain clarity and determine the right course of action. Steve Jobs did this when he returned to Apple. How can a leader develop this “understanding of the times” and come to know what they should do in a controversial situation as an authentic leader?

Well, in order to study the times you have to become an analyst. I think the best attitude to have is to become a student rather than a critic. We all have a tendency to criticize that which we don’t understand. So, when something new is working and you don’t understand it, instead of criticizing it, study it. Why is it working? Why did someone think this was a good idea? Why are people following this new idea? Read books on it. Interview the people doing it. Get into their world and observe it in action. Having this attitude of being a student rather than a critic, will greatly aid us in “understanding the times.” And, if after you study it, you still don’t see value in the new idea, fine. Move on. But, if you don’t become a student and instead criticize everything new, you will get stuck in the past and never understand the times.

Determine to Value Right Over Popular

I think when I fell madly in love with the church and with the mission Jesus gave us to make disciples, I turned my vision of what the church could be into what it must be. When it became a must, I wasn’t ready to compromise for anything. I wanted to see results, in the same way I saw the early church get results in the Book of Acts. I valued right, over popular with stubborn determination.

I became willing to change anything and everything—except the message—to get those results. Although, I wish everyone would understand and get on board, I know that that is just not possible and that not everyone will understand and not everyone will become a student first, before becoming a critic. I wouldn’t be so stubborn if I wasn’t seeing the results I first envisioned. Once I started seeing it work, I became more focused and more intent on messing with the methods.

Develop Your EQ

EQ is what separates the great from the average. The great have this ability to put their emotions in context. They are more concerned with those they lead than they are about how they themselves feel. They will push past their own fears or frustrations in order to lead those around them more effectively. Jesus, modelled this the best when He went to the cross. He pushed past his own feelings and did what needed to be done anyway because he kept all of us in mind. To me, that’s the definition of courage. He felt fear, yet pressed on anyways. That’s what the great do. They do what’s right for their people despite their own feelings.

Jesus was the most authentic man to walk the planet and yet he stayed firm on his mission. He knew the endgame was worth dodging the bullets of public opinion. Why is staying on mission critical in discussions like this on what is trendy verses what is authentic?

Well, we’ve got the most important message in history to communicate. People’s eternities are at stake and we can’t become married to our methods by either getting stuck in the past or by compromising the message by focusing too much on being trendy. It’s a fine balance and we must stay true the message because the church and it’s message is the hope of the world and we’re on a mission to reach every available person at every available time by every available means with the Gospel of Jesus Christ by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.



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Small Church-Large Church Challenges


Small churches face different dynamics and challenges than larger churches, but both can learn valuable lessons from each other.

There are many, many differences between the dynamics of a small church and a large church, but the biggest challenge for a small church is getting your people to think outward. The greatest strength of a small church is relational—everyone knows everyone. But that can also be its greatest weakness. Everyone loves knowing everyone and most peoples tendency is to keep the circle small and tight so it is often difficult to welcome newcomers into that circle.

Small churches often have a resource problem that is limiting. They don’t have enough people or money to operate all of their programs with excellence and due to the fact that most people shop for a church that can meet all of the needs of their family, a small church has a difficult time meeting all of those needs.

The biggest struggle for the large churches is often the opposite. When a small church’s strength is relational, a large church struggles staying relational. That’s why small groups are so vital, especially for the large churches. The other struggle for large churches is that they do have resources, both money and people, and so their tendency is to get too busy, doing too many things that may meet everyone’s needs but aren’t always on mission. It’s important for large churches to keep it simple, focused, and on mission.

I have pastored both. My church in Canmore fluctuated anywhere from 80 to 160 in attendance. My church in Okotoks started out with a small group of about 20 and grew to 250 and then when I took over the church in Lethbridge it was at about 300 in weekly attendance and has since grown to over 1500 in weekly attendance in the last 6 years.

Retention Dynamics

More than half of the Christians who worship in the United States and Canada do so in just 1/7 of the churches in these two countries.  That means the other half worship in 6/7 of the churches in both countries.

One fourth of all Protestant congregations on this continent have fewer than thirty-five people in attendance at their principal weekly worship services, and one half average less than seventy-five. 50% of the churches on the North American continent average less than 75 people!

While there may be geographic or population density stats that explain this, often it is because small churches thrive on their very tight relationships. That's good! But it is very difficult for an outsider to come in to that church and feel like they fit in or are even welcomed. I discovered while pastoring small churches, that we generally had as many visitors in a year as some of the large churches in town, our problem was with retention. We were either too difficult to connect with and too cliquey OR we didn’t have good enough programs to effectively minister to the families coming in—or both. Like attracts like, so if that small church is older and doesn’t have any kids, it is tough for a young family to come in and feel like their needs and their kids needs can be met there. Or, likewise if the church is all young families, the older couples come in and feel like they don’t belong and won’t be ministered to. It really is a tough dilemma and is a difficult hurdle to overcome for the smaller churches. I think it takes a lot more skill and talent and effort to pastor a church under 100 than it does to pastor one over 1000. That’s my opinion anyway.

Pastors often feel a sense of “isolation". You don’t have staff working with you in the office every day and it is easy to feel very isolated. I think that is why ministerial’s in communities are so vital, especially for the small church pastors. It is a way to connect with other pastors just like you. I forced myself to regularly visit with other pastors in my community and also in the area. I learned from them, prayed with them, and worked along side them in the community. It was important for me and I encourage any pastor that feels isolated to reach out to other pastors for encouragement. That’s why I am such a believer in an organization like Victory. We are a family of pastors that can lean on each other. But it took my effort to reach out to other pastors because they are busy, too and I couldn’t just sit back and wait for them to come to me. I had to go to them.

Connection Dynamics

Jason Feifer, editor of Entrepreneur magazine wrote recently that people want to be heard. As editor, people that write into his magazine are surprised when he writes them back. He says people want their ideas, thoughts and experiences to be heard.  Being heard makes them feel valued. 

While I don't think there should be a difference between how people are heard in smaller churches than how they are heard or valued in larger churches, I do think there is a perception that the pastor and staff are too busy to hear me out or to meet with me in a larger church. I do my absolute best to avoid that from being the case. Every individual matters and is valued—whether they are attending a small church or whether they are a member of a larger church.

The systems that pastors use in a larger church to connect differ from those of a smaller church, and they must be different in order for each person to be heard. I take my cue on this issue from Exodus 18 when Moses’ father-in-law taught Moses an excellent system to more effectively care for a massive congregation of 3 million people. He instructed him to set in leaders of 10s, 50s, 100s, and 1000s to care for the people. The leaders of 10s were like small group leaders who cared for the needs of their 10. And if a need was too much for them to care for on their own they took it to their leader, the leader of 50s who oversaw 5 groups of 10. If it was still too big a matter it went to the leaders of 100s who oversaw 2 leaders of 50s. If it was still too big then is went to the leaders of 1000s and if it was still beyond their ability to help it went to Moses. This system provided care for every individual in the nation and kept Moses fresh and able to lead effectively. The job of a pastor is not to pastor all of the people, but is instead to make sure all of the people are pastored.

Vision Dynamics

Casting vision and the principles of vision casting are the same in all churches, regardless of their size. The principles of a vision is:

  1. What problem are we called to solve?
  2. What solution will we offer to the problem?
  3. Why should we be the ones to offer that solution? 
  4. Why now?

The difference in the visions of a small church as compared to a big church might be the size of problems the congregation can take on—because of the amount of resources (both manpower and finances), often determine the ability or the size of the problem you are able to tackle. But, that may be the only difference. I would caution pastors of small churches not to try to cast a vision that is beyond your ability to solve just because you saw a big church take it on. It will only lead to frustration or burnout for you and your people. I say this, because I made that mistake a number of times thinking that my church was small because my vision was too small, but that is not necessarily the case.

Church Board Dynamics

Another major area of contention in many churches is the church board. I have redefined and reshaped the responsibilities of our church board here at My Victory in Lethbridge.  I must explain that it wasn’t just me that brought these changes in. A number of the board members played a major role in instituting these changes.

We read a book called “Winning on Purpose” by John Kaiser and it changed our entire perspective and the way that we operated. The board went from being an operational board, one that had its hands in every ministry and played the role of the leader in those ministries, to a governance board.  

What do I mean? One of my first board meetings was a meeting that lasted 3 hours and most of the discussion was about which photocopier to buy. This decision was being made by people who would never use that photocopier! It’s highly inefficient. When we transitioned from operational to governance, the board established policy and held me accountable to operating within those policies. Now instead of deciding which photocopier to buy, the board set a budget—a policy to operate within—myself and the staff chose the best machine within that budget. That’s a much more effective way to operate since it is the staff that are using the photocopier every day.

The board provides governance and sets policy. The Lead Pastor provides leadership. And the staff provides management while the congregation does the work of the ministry. The board holds me accountable for the mission and to play within the rules. I hold the staff accountable and the congregation is the ministers. While it is a very quick synopsis, I am telling you, it has revolutionized our entire ministry! I would highly recommend every pastor listening and every board read Kaiser’s book. It will revolutionize your church, too.

Pastoral Dynamics

John Koessler says the majority of those entering pastoral ministry will serve a small congregation. Yet most training programs appear to gear themselves for the larger church.  The role models placed before seminary and Bible college students are usually "successful" graduates who serve in larger churches.  Such role models can be inspiring, but the operating principles that have enabled them to succeed in the larger churches are often inappropriate for their smaller counterparts.

Koessler is absolutely right. I would even say that the majority of conferences are more geared towards the large church, than the small church. I think there is a misconception that the pastors of the large churches are successful and the pastors of small churches are not. I don’t think that is the case at all. It takes a totally different leader and gift set to pastor a small church than it does a large church.

Small church pastors are multi-talented, jack-of-all-trades, pastoral type people. They have to counsel people, prepare sermons, be graphic artists, and web designers, they often have to be involved in the music ministry, children's ministry, youth ministry and lead small groups. They are most times the janitor and the facility maintenance person and the community liaison as well. They are my heroes! Large church pastors are more like ranchers. They oversee staff who do most of the work and they spend the majority of their time working as the chief communicator for the organization. In spiritual terms, most small church pastors have a five-fold pastoral gift and most large church pastors have a five-fold apostolic gift. It's a generalization, but I have studied this a bit and I have seen this to be the case—not in every circumstance—but in many of them.

When I pastored my small church in Canmore I received so much help from so many people. Most of which I sought out myself. Which I think is important as a pastor of any size church. You need a healthy curiosity and seek help from anywhere and everywhere you can. I ferociously read books, attended conferences, and interviewed a ton of pastors who had gone further than me or had pastored longer than me. I still made a ton of mistakes, but I learned from that as well. If I knew what I know now, I would have done most things differently, but wouldn’t we all. I would have conducted our services differently, structured our board differently, taught vision differently, focused more on culture, worked with staff differently and I could go on — so ya, basically everything would be different!

Volunteer Dynamics

John Koessler also comments that a small church's perception of itself is good in that it helps maintain a family atmosphere, but it can lend itself to pessimism in both pastor and people. Lay influence tends to be greater in a small church, a feature that can be cultivated to advantage through wise leadership.

I would agree. The less volunteers you have the greater the impact they have, both positive and negative. In a small church, if one family sours and leaves the church, the impact can be devastating and the whole church feels the hit. Whereas in a large church, if a family sours and leaves the church it doesn’t usually have as big of an effect on the whole. Because of this, small church pastors are often more tempted to compromise in order to keep all of their people happy because they are afraid rocking the boat may sink the whole ship. This is a dangerous thing to do as a pastor.

You will never be able to make everyone happy, and trying to will greatly dilute the vision and mission. You have to resist the temptation and stay the course. I have had to battle this in all three churches I have pastored and I can tell you it is much easier to stay the course and to avoid the temptation of compromising for people as a pastor of a large church than it was as a pastor of a small one. Again, my hat goes off to the small church pastors, you guys are amazing!

I think a common stressor between both sized churches is delegating period. Most of the time it is easier to just do it yourself rather than delegate it to someone else. This is true of both pastors. The key to both is to invest in a few key leaders all of the time. I think the most important thing a lead pastor can do, whether he is pastoring a church of 30 people or 30,000 is to pick 10-12 key leaders in your church that you can monthly train and equip for ministry. As a small church pastor, these 10-12 could be your future staff members when your church grows large enough to hire them. For the large church pastor, these 10-12 might already be your key staff members or potential key staff members, but nevertheless it is vital that you pour your very best into your very best. Believe me, it will pay massive dividends later. To me, this might be your primary responsibility as a pastor — equip the saints for the work of the ministry. At least that is what the Apostle Paul thought was the pastors primary job.

Training leaders in a small church focuses on the laity when training leaders in a larger church focuses on a large paid staff as well as the volunteers. When I was younger and a rookie at pastoring I made the excuse that I didn’t know enough to train others yet. Yet, I talked myself into doing it anyway. And do you know what I found? I found that I grew faster teaching others than I did just growing myself. My advice in training leaders is just do it. Set up a monthly leadership meeting. Invite 10-12 key people you want to invest in. People you trust and see the most potential in. Invite them to your house, have a meal with them, and then give them a leadership teaching. Stay one step ahead of them. Read a book, then teach from it. You will grow as you teach them to grow and it will pay huge dividends for your ministry. It is amazing to me how many pastors neglect this part of their job and don’t train their people in leadership. If leadership is influence as John Maxwell says, then growing your people in leadership is growing their influence in the community. How can your church not grow if your people are growing in influence? It’s seems simple to me. And it works.

In both settings, the lay volunteers are critical to the success of the churches. Again, I think it is much easier to recruit volunteers in a large church simply because there are more people to draw from. With that being said, I would guess that small churches have a much higher percentage of volunteers than do large churches. The challenge in the large church is that many people attending feel like they are simply not needed. Everything seems to be taken care of and so there is no room for me. That is never the case. I have yet to turn away a volunteer and I have never pastored a church with too many volunteers! We need everyone and there is always room for more to get involved.

Culture Dynamics

Both size churches benefit from intentionally establishing a relevant church culture, but I think it is harder to change the culture of a large church than it is a small one. It’s simply because most large churches think they are already successful and have a core group of people who think their way is the only way and you will also have different pockets of culture within one congregation. Getting them all on the same page with a designed culture is really difficult, but really necessary.

Creating a diverse team can be challenging in a small church simply because of numbers again. Because like attracts like, most small churches have one general demographic and therefore it is very difficult to create diversity when it is simply not there. In contrast, in larger churches, it is often much simpler to create diversity because there are often pockets of diverse groups within the church and you just have to get them working together as a team.

Learning From Each Other

As a pastor who oversees the Victory Churches in Canada, I see strengths in both size churches in the Victory Church movement. I love all of our churches and I know many amazing pastors of both small churches and large churches. I think the small churches can teach us how to be more effective relationally and creatively. Why do I say creatively? Well, because lack of resources often forces us to get more creative and inventive. Often having plentiful resources causes us to get complacent and lazy. So, I think some of our most creative pastors are the pastors of our small churches. I think we can learn structure and systems from our large churches. They are often finding new and more effective ways to structure things in order to reach more people. So the strength of the small church is relational and its creativity while the strength of the large churches are their systems and structure.

The biggest question is are we willing to learn from each other? Sometimes ego comes into play and divides us into two campus. Big verses small. I think if large churches think they know better simply because they are bigger then they are greatly mistaken. That attitude pushes people away. Likewise, I think if small church pastors feel inferior or feel like they have nothing to contribute then they are withholding from others and both of these attitudes create isolation into 2 camps. I think we need to be willing to learn from each other and celebrate each other rather than falling into the comparison trap and egotistical isolation.

Leaders in either church who grow themselves stand out from those who don’t. But growing leaders usually includes those leaders being exposed to new church trends or to what Jason Feifer calls in the secular world,  shiny objects”.   Sometimes chasing the “shiny objects” but not following through, hurts the integrity and trust factor of any pastor regardless of the church size. I was one who was easily swayed by the new shiny trends until I realized that our mission must go before our vision. Our mission defines why we do what we do, and to me, Jesus gave us our mission 2000 years ago with the Great Commission. We are to make disciples. The vision defines what we will do in order to fulfill the mission. The vision is where the shiny objects show up. So, if some new trend comes along, but it doesn’t help us fulfill our mission then it simply must be avoided. But, if it keeps us on mission and will assist in the great commission, then I say bring it on. Let’s do it!

We Are THE Church

Certainly larger churches seem to have challenges that stand in contrast to those in smaller churches; and yet we’re all on the same team.  

We must realize that not one gift is better than another, that I don’t need to be just like someone else, that God is not judging me based on someone else’s fruit or comparing me to the size of someone else’s ministry. He called me to be me, and he placed me as a member in His global plan to save the world. So, I must play my part, no matter how big or small, because my part is vital to the success of His Kingdom on the planet, because the church is the hope of the world and we are on a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means with the Gospel of Jesus Christ by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.


Episode Resources:

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The Why Behind My Victory Starts Here

I began pastoring as a very naive 23 year old. I was the worship leader at a fairly new church plant in Canmore, Alberta and one day our senior pastor felt he should go plant another church and turned his church over to me.

To be honest, I hadn’t ever planned on being a lead pastor. I wasn’t sure how to run a church and so I looked everywhere for help and for a mentor. Pastor George Hill became that mentor to me. I am so appreciative of what he has poured into me over the years.

It was his Bible College class on the book of Acts that I first fell in love with the local church and its call on the earth. I was inspired by his vision and the vision of Victory Churches to Reach, Teach, and Mobilize. To me, this vision most reflected the heartbeat of the early church in the book of Acts and it was a vision that fulfilled the global mission Jesus gave his followers in Matthew 28.

It is a never ending vision. We reach every available person, by every available means, at every available time with the Gospel of Jesus Christ; teaching them to become disciples and mobilizing them to Reach every available person. It is a vision that works in every country, with every people group, in every language. It is simple and portable. And I love it!

So, I went to work as a pastor to live this vision in my church. The problem was, I wasn’t sure how to translate the vision to my local setting. How does a local church most effectively reach every available person, while at the same time teaching those you’ve reached, while mobilizing others into their own callings?

To be honest, I have wrestled with how to most effectively do all three of these things for most of my ministry career. It’s required me to continually mess with the methods while keeping the message sacred.

By the time I had arrived in Lethbridge, five and a half years ago, I had learned how to become effective in reaching a community. I went to work, with our amazing board and staff, at refocusing the Lethbridge church outward and at reaching the unchurched community. Because Pastor George Hill was my mentor for many years, and continues to be to this day, and because he was the founding pastor of this church, the church very quickly took to the vision. Many of those who had been in the church from the beginning remarked at how it felt just like it did in the beginning with Pastors George and Hazel. I knew we were moving in the right direction. Our methods are a little different, but they should be. After all, it is 2016 not 1979. But the vision was the same.

We started to see amazing results. In the first year we saw 386 people come to a relationship with Jesus for the first time. In our second year, another 400 became first time believers. We had successfully created a church that unchurched people loved to attend and we were effectively reaching every available person, by every available means with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A new problem presented itself. While hundreds were coming to Christ every year, a very small percentage of them were remaining in the church. The majority of those we had reached we never saw again. We were greatly dissatisfied. Jesus said to go into all of the world and make disciples, not just converts.

Desperate to find a solution, our pastoral team gathered together and began to brainstorm how we could most effectively increase our retention rates and make disciples.

The first question we tackled was “What is a disciple?” We knew that if we couldn’t concretely define what one was, we would not be effective in making one. It was in the middle of this search, that I heard Pastor George speak at one of our conferences and in his talk he used verses from 1 John 2 where John said to the early church, “I write to you little children…I write to you young men…and I write to you fathers.”

That’s when it hit me, he was describing the maturity process of a Christ follower. He was defining a disciple!

I came back to our team and shared my revelation. They were all excited and we began brainstorming around what all of that would mean and how to translate that into the every day life of our church.

The conclusion we came to was that spiritual maturity revolves totally around the Word of God. When John described little children, he was describing the new believers who did not yet understand the Word and were still completely dependent on others to teach them and feed them spiritually.

When John described the young men, he described them as strong in the Word. We concluded that they were strong because they were independent and regularly fed themselves the Word.

When John described fathers, he was describing those who were not only self feeders, but also took to the time and effort to teach and train others in the Word. We suddenly saw, REACH, TEACH, and MOBILIZE in the Scripture.

We went to work designing a new retention plan. We evaluated everything we were doing as a church and discussed at length what we should be doing in order to effectively Reach, Teach, and Mobilize disciples.

We settled on 5 things:

  1. _____________________. We would continue to create weekly church services that the unchurched would love to attend and in every single service we committed to giving an opportunity for people to commit their lives to Christ by leading them through the salvation prayer.
  2. _____________________. We would begin small groups in our church and would encourage all of our weekly attendees to participate in a weekly Connect Group with the purpose of building intimate relationships while discussing the Bible in a small group setting. Relationships are the key to helping new comers “remain” and it is a great way to make a big church small. It is also a great way to mobilize our mature believers to become “fathers”—feeding others the Word.
  3. _____________________. We determined to make it a weekly habit to encourage our people to read the Bible daily as well as provide as many ways as we could for them to feed on the Word of God themselves. We determined to not be a church that keeps people dependent on their pastor to feed them, but instead taught them how to feed themselves. This is where they become strong to face their storms, and remain standing.
  4. _____________________. We decided that we would unashamedly encourage all of our people to participate in the activities of the local church by volunteering their time and energies to its growth. We feel that if people can give of themselves by serving others that they will not drift into the dangerous lane of me-church. I feel that the natural gravitation pull of every local church is to become insider focused. To resist this pull, we feel it necessary to keep our people participating in serving others. Regular volunteering is one great way to do just that.
  5. _____________________. One of the big tests as to whether we are effectively creating services that unchurched people love to attend, is whether or not our regular attenders feel comfortable to invite their unchurch friends or family to our weekly services. Using Acts 15:19 as our cue, “we don’t want to make it difficult for the unchurched to come to Jesus.” So, we regularly poll our people as to whether they are inviting or feel comfortable to invite their friends or family members to church. And we do what we can to remove all cringe factors that would hinder them from doing so. In our latest poll, 78% of our regular attenders invited at least one unchurched person to church with them in the last year.

These 5 were the model in which we built all of our ministries on. Our children’s ministry leads kids to Attend, Connect, Read, Serve, and Invite. Our youth ministry leads people to Attend, Connect, Read, Serve, and Invite. The entire church does these 5 things and only these 5 things. Any activity that does not lead people to do these 5, does not happen. 

With this model in place, we then began working on materials to teach and equip our new believers into a fully committed relationship with Christ. We looked at all kinds of materials out there, and while there are a lot of great tools that teach people the basics of Christianity, we didn't find anything that led people into a deeper participation in what we feel are vital activities within the local church. And, we didn’t find anything that really furthered our vision of Reach, Teach, Mobilize. We found things that were effective in one or two, but nothing that led people into all three.

So, we built our own. We first released it as a January series to begin our year. We called it B40X. It included a weekly sermon, a weekly small group guide, and a daily devotional. The effect on our church was incredible. That year we led over 400 people to Jesus and retained over 250 of them in the church! We were excited, but felt we could do even better. So, we have been honing this process for the last couple of years, and the result is My Victory Starts Here.

We put the devotional and small group guides in print because we felt they could become a tool to REACH the unchurched, TEACH the little children, and MOBILIZE the young men to become fathers by giving them a resource that they could give to someone they were discipling.

We have now equipped our mature believers with a resource that they can disciple their new believing friends and family members with, on their own, without relying on the pastors of the church to conduct a Christianity 101 class.

Our retention has never been better and I think if we use this tool properly we can become even more effective in making disciples. This is a tool to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. This is also a tool that allows us to effectively REACH, TEACH, and MOBILIZE.


7 Characteristics of a Pastoral Team

This past week was a super exciting week for us at My Victory. We released the book My Victory Starts Here along with the series on the same topic. We celebrated 8 baptisms in our site in Okotoks and we successfully launched our campus in Lloydminster with 190 people in attendance! I am so proud of our team there and all of the work they put in to make the church launch such a success. It is no small feat to gather a crowd of this magnitude when opening a brand new church in a community. I am so impressed.

Now the work begins to turn that crowd into a congregation, to turn our new converts into disciples. This is a big job, and it takes a highly qualified and passionate team to do this. This is much more than just a job that one pastor can do. Remember, John Maxwell once said that “one is too small a number to achieve greatness.”

I often get asked the question, “why do you choose to do multisite church plants instead of just planting an independent church. Here are 10 reasons why we decided to plant a multisite churches:

  1. _____________________.
  2. Sharing of _____________________.
  3. Infusion of_____________________  workers.
  4. Shared _____________________ and core _____________________.
  5. Greater_____________________ support.
  6. Pre-established network for _____________________ _____________________.
  7. Not needing to _____________________.
  8. Connection with others doing the _____________________ thing.
  9. Less_____________________ and greater_____________________.
  10. New-church vibe with a _____________________punch.

What Does a Campus Pastor & Campus Staff Do?

The primary responsibility of a campus pastor is to ensure the transfer of the ministry _____________________ _____________________ and _____________________ of the sending church.

The goal is really to be_____________________ church in_____________________ locations.

What are the Characteristics of an Effective Campus Team?

  1. High _____________________ leader.
  2. _____________________ players.
  3. People _____________________.
  4. _____________________.
  5. _____________________ _____________________.
  6. _____________________.
  7.  _____________________ _____________________.

“Our campus pastors have an unwavering loyalty to the lead pastor, believe in the mission of our church, connect with their congregation and develop leaders.” ~ Jim Tomberlin, who is the Multisite Pastor for Willow Creek Church

Episode Resources:

How to Lead a Connect Group

This is an exciting week for me. I am launching my first book this Sunday, plus we are officially opening our fourth campus in Lloydminster, a city that straddles the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The book is called My Victory Starts Here and it is a 40 day devotional designed to set the foundation for what Christianity is all about. It’s a great resource for new believers and was written based on the discipleship program we have been running here at My Victory for the past 2 years. In that time we have led over 1000 people to Jesus and have been able to incorporate over half of them into the regular life of the church and ministry. We’re excited about the retention of new believers and even more excited about releasing this book now as a tool for our church members to use to lead their friends and family members to Christ and then be equipped disciple them.

The book is available for order now on my website, or on

The 40 day devotional will be accompanied by a 6 week new believers course that will take the form of a comfortable small group. We think that life change happens best in a small group setting and that the best way to make a disciple is through relationship. We didn’t want to create a classroom style new believers course. We wanted to create relational based disciples as we feel this is the best way to mature in Christ over the long term.

I want to give you an overview of how we do small groups, or as we like to call them connect groups. We want to avoid the typical bible studies or small groups that has one predominate teacher who does all of the talking. Instead, we want to create discussion groups that are based on relationships and biblical discussion.

Here is what we encourage our group leaders to do:

  1. Encourage _________________.
  2. Ask great _________________.
  3. Cultivate _________________.
  4. Be _________________.

Our suggested meeting schedule:

  1. _________________ time (10 minutes)
  2. _________________ (10 minutes)
  3. _________________ (18 minutes)
  4. _________________ (5 minutes)
  5. _________________ (45 minutes)

    a. _________________ does is say? b. _________________ do you think it means? c. _________________ do we do about it?

  6. _________________ (10 minutes)


Episode Resources:


6 Catalysts for a Deeper Ministry Experience

Last week I talked about casting a compelling vision and as an example I walked through our vision as a church for the upcoming year. Our goal is to go deeper. Now, I know that seems vague and can mean a million things, but today I want to give you the specifics of how we intend to do this.

This is the teaching I gave to our team at our All Staff Meeting last week. We talked about how we intend to take our church deeper in the upcoming year. I gave Six Catalysts for a Deeper Faith Experience at My Victory.

6 Catalysts for a Deeper Ministry Experience:

  1. Personal _____________________.  Questions for Reflection: How do we most effectively provide personal ministry to individuals in a corporate setting without getting weird? How do we provide personal ministry without it becoming so routine it becomes religious? What can we do to measure our progress in this area?
  2. Practical _____________________. Questions for Reflection: What do we want them to know? What do we want them to do? Why do we want them to know it? Why do we want them to do it? What can we do to help them remember? What can we do to create next steps? What can we do to measure our progress in this area?
  3.   Pivotal _____________________. Questions for Reflection: How do we most effectively capture life change? How do we celebrate pivotal life events? baptism? baby dedication? newlyweds? communion? What can we do to measure our progress in this area? 
  4. Providential _____________________. Questions for Reflection: Do we connect people quickly and keep them connected? Do we have easy, obvious steps into community? Is it easy of nonbelievers to find their places? What can we do programmatically to create more relational connection opportunities? What can we do to measure our progress in this area?
  5. Private _____________________. Questions for Reflection: At what age do we begin teaching the importance of private spiritual disciplines? How and how often is this value reinforced with our students? What devotional and personal Bible study resources do we make available, and how accessible are they? When is the last time we did a weekend series on the spiritual disciplines? How could we use the weekend to reinforce this value on a regular basis? What could you do to prioritize this in the mix of everything else you are doing? Are spiritual disciplines a priority in your life? What can we do to measure our progress in this area?
  6. Paternal _____________________. Questions for Reflection: How easy is it for new people and nonmembers to get involved in our ministry? Does our approach to equipping and training keep people out of ministry environments longer than necessary? Are there steps we could shorten or eliminate altogether? Are there areas where nonbelievers could be encouraged to serve? What can we do to measure our progress in this area?

Our bottom line: We’re in it for the  _____________________.

Episode Resources:

The Secret of Keystone Habits

In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg talks about keystone habits. He defines a keystone habit as a pattern that has the power to start a chain reaction, changing other habits as it moves through an organization.

He tells a story about Paul O’Neill, who took over as CEO of Alcoa, an aluminum company in 1987. In his first speech as CEO he said something unusual.

"I want to talk to you about worker safety,” he said, “every year, numerous Alcoa workers are injured so badly that they miss a day of work. I intend to make Alcoa the safest company in America. I intend to go for zero injuries."

The shareholders were confused. Normally CEO’s talk about profit margins and new markets. Many shareholders rushed out of the meeting and sold their stocks expecting the company to bottom out. But it didn’t. In fact, it did the opposite. Within a year of O'Neill's speech, Alcoa's profits would hit a record high. By the time O'Neill retired in 2000, the company's annual net income was five times larger than before he arrived, and its market capitalization had risen by $27 billion.

When later interviewed about why he thought his strategy worked, O’Neill said, "I knew I had to transform Alcoa. But you can't order people to change. That's not how the brain works. So I decided I was going to start by focusing on one thing. If I could start disrupting the habits around one thing, it would spread throughout the entire company.”

That’s the nature of a keystone habit. I decided to read parts of the book to our staff and we entered into discussion about habits and in particular about what we thought our corporate keystone habit was.

Here are some of the points we went through in that discovery.

  1. A ______________ habit is a small change or habit that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.
  2. A habit is a formula our brain automatically follows: When I see ______________ , I will do ______________ in order to get a ______________.
  3. Identify the ______________ which is the behaviour I want to change.
  4. Experiment with ______________ in order to isolate what will actually drive the routine, which is essential in designing or redesigning the habit.
  5. Isolate the ______________ which triggers the habit.

    Almost all habitual cues fit into one of five categories: a.______________ - Where are you? b.______________ - What time is it? c.______________ ______________  - What’s your emotional state? d.______________ ______________ - Who else is around? e.______________ ______________ ______________  - What action preceded the urge?

  6. What are our ______________ ?

5 Not’s:

  1. Things are NOT going ______________ .
  2. I’m NOT ______________ for.
  3. I’m NOT from ______________ .
  4. I'm NOT ______________ .
  5. I’m NOT in a ______________ .

Episode Resources

10.5 Commandments of Creativity

We have been learning about the 7 growth points of every organization. The 7 growth points pertain to every church, small group, business, or department. Again, they are: 1) The leader must grow; 2) the leadership team must be intentionally grown; 3) the leadership must work and grow the systems; 4) the numbers must grow (attendance for churches or number of customers for businesses); 5) the finances must grow; 6) the expectations must grow; 7) The facilities must grow.

In today’s podcast I’m going to focus on the 6th growth point, expectations. This is the growth point that warrants the greatest number of questions because it seems so unusual in comparison to the others. But make no mistake, growing your expectations will greatly impact the growth of your church or small group. Expectations draw on the anointing.

Remember when Jesus entered his home town? The Bible says he was unable to do miracles there. This is Jesus. God Himself! Yet, He was limited in doing miracles because the people were too familiar with him. They didn’t come to him with great expectations, because this was Jesus—Joseph and Mary’s kid—the one who grew up just down the street from them. They had  known Him since He was a child.

When something becomes familiar, it loses the awe factor and the expectations decrease. When the expectations decrease, the anointing decreases as we see in the story of Jesus returning home. I don’t know about you, but I want our people to come expectant to church because I want the anointing and power of God to move in and amongst them. When our church services become familiar and predicable, we lose some of that expectation and it will negatively impact our services.

That is why it is important to regularly evaluate our attenders expectation level. And, when it is low—yes, we need to pray and ask God to intervene—but we can also go to work to practically address the problem. Of course, being practical doesn’t replace the power of God. But it is one way to fertilize the soil to allow God to go to work. I believe one of the best ways to practically impact the expectation level of your attenders is with creativity.

Here are the 10.5 Commandments of Creativity:

  1. Thou shalt create in___________________.Creative team’s are comprised of:     i. ___________________     ii.  ___________________     iii. ___________________     iv. ___________________
  2. Thou shalt give the right people a___________________.
  3. Thou shalt remember the ___________________ and keep it holy.
  4. Thou shalt hire___________________ men and women.

Avoid These People:

• Avoid people who cause___________________. • Avoid people who___________________ the conversation. • Avoid people who don’t ___________________. • Avoid people who always ___________________ .

    Get These People

• Get people who have a ___________________ heart for the church.  • Get people who have ___________________ with each other. • Get people who move the conversation ___________________.

5. Thou shalt___________________ ideas and make them better.

6. Thou shalt be ___________________. 7. Thou shalt ask ___________________.

a -___________________  s - ___________________  k - ___________________

WHY: W =___________________ the point? H =___________________ do I pull this off? Y =___________________ style?

8. Thou shalt put in the___________________. 9. Thou shalt___________________ ___________________ ___________________ .

10. Thou shalt not chase the___________________.

The 6 stages of creativity:

Stage 1: This is ___________________! Stage 2: This has___________________. Stage 3: This is___________________! Stage 4: I am___________________! Stage 5: This has___________________. Stage 6: This is___________________.

11. Thou shalt install the ___________________ principle.

The definition of creativity: To be consistently ___________________. To be predictably___________________. To be comfortably ___________________. To be on the radical edge of ___________________.

10.5 Thou shalt create a climate of ___________________.

Episode Resources


Our Team's Culture Code

It’s amazing how growing your church is so controversial these days. I again read an article this week that stated that a growing church does not mean a healthy church—I believe that to be absolutely true. However they went on to say that if a church is not growing that does not mean it is unhealthy. That’s where I would have to disagree.

While no timeline of “not growing” was mentioned I would have to assume they were speaking over a lengthy period of time. If a church has not grown numerically in a year or more, something is not right and something needs to be addressed in order to see numerical growth happen again.

Why do I believe this? Because Jesus gave the mission to the church to “GO into all the world and make disciples…” If we cease to “go and make” we are not on mission and something is wrong. That’s why I focus so much on the 7 growth points. These 7 points help me discern what is wrong if our church doesn’t grow over the course of a year or two.

To me, the church was designed to grow. Has to grow. That is it’s mandate and our vision as a Victory Church is to “Reach every available person at every available time by every available means with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” If we are not growing, we are not following our mission or our vision and we must immediately assess the cause.

One of the greatest effects on numerical growth is the effect of culture. Culture happens by design or by default. What I mean is every church has a culture, just like every home and business has a culture. That culture is determined on purpose or by accident. I prefer to design the culture I want on purpose so that it matches what our mission and vision are.

Three years ago, our staff sat down and over a period of three months in our weekly staff meetings we discussed and designed the culture we wanted to work in. It was one of the most impacting things we have ever done as a team. I love what we came up with, but it was the process of coming to these team values that was the most impacting on our team and church.

Our Culture Code:

  1. We lead with _______________.We guard our hearts against becoming reactionary.Proverbs 29:18 (NASB) Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained,
  2. We make it_______________.We guard our hearts against an attitude of “it’s good enough.”Matthew 25:25-27 (Msg) “Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent. The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least?”
  3. We_______________ with the methods.We guard our hearts against the thought of “we’ve never done it that way before.”Isaiah 43:19 (NIV) “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
  4. We keep it _______________.We guard our hearts against over complexity and busyness.Luke 9:1-4 (Msg) Jesus now called the Twelve and gave them authority and power to deal with all the demons and cure diseases. He commissioned them to preach the news of God’s kingdom and heal the sick. He said, “Don’t load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment.”
  5. We need to _______________.We guard our hearts against being secret cliques and under-communication.Ephesians 4:25 (Msg) “What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.”
  6. We’re all_______________.We guard our hearts against an attitude of “that’s not my job.”Galatians 6:2 (NIV) Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
  7. We never waste a_______________ .We guard our hearts against being overwhelmed by problems.Romans 8:37-39 (NIV) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  8. We make each other look_______________.We guard our hearts against gossip and being publicly critical.1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV) Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
  9. We_______________ ourselves.We guard our hearts against selfish ambition.2 Timothy 2:1-2 (Msg) So, my son, throw yourself into this work for Christ. Pass on what you heard from me—the whole congregation saying Amen!—to reliable leaders who are competent to teach others.
  10. We _______________ our culture.We guard our hearts against division & hypocrisy.Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”


Episode Resources

How to Shape a Culture


The big question today is what effect do we as leaders in the church have on numerical growth? Especially because 1 Corinthians 3 says, “Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.”  Does this mean that God is the only one who determines growth?

It is absolutely true that God causes growth. Just like it is true that God causes my garden to grow. The miracle of growth is His, but when my neighbour’s garden grows so much better than mine does that mean God favours them more than me? No, it simply means they are a better gardener than me. They worked the soil better. They watered it better. They used the right mix of fertilizers, etc.

The church is exactly the same. God is absolutely the one that causes increase and changes hearts and lives. Our job is to create the atmosphere, work the soil, water and fertilize it, using our knowledge and skill to ensure that people will connect with God and grow.

My mentor and friend, the late Jack Whitesell once told me, “If a man enters a harvest field and when he leaves his bags are full. Another man enters the same harvest field and leaves with his bags empty. The differences between the two are skills, systems and methods.”

One of the most underrated, yet impactful effect on church growth is culture.

What is Culture?

Culture is more important than ______________.

Culture is more important than ______________ ______________.

Culture is more important than ______________.

Culture is the______________ of the organization. It tells us what is most ______________ in this organization.

Culture is shaped over time through tangible and intangible behaviours.

the tangibles:

  1. ______________ .
  2. ______________.
  3. The look of the______________.
  4. The ______________.
  5. ______________ .

the intangibles:

  1. Our______________ (stated and unstated)
  2. Our ______________ and______________. “You absolutely cannot make a series of good decisions without first confronting the brutal facts.”~Jim CollinsQuestions I frequently ask to evaluate where we are a. What are we doing right? Let’s optimize. b. What’s wrong? Let’s change. c. What’s confusing? Let’s clarify. d. What’s missing? Let’s add. e. What are the threats? Let’s avoid. f. What are the opportunities? Let’s exploit. g. What could we eliminate that no one would miss? Let’s cut.
  3. How success is______________ .
  4. How ______________ are addressed.
  5. The manifestation of ______________ and______________ at all levels of the organization. “When there is an absence of trust, it stems from the leader’s unwillingness to be vulnerable with the group. Leaders who are not genuinely open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses make it impossible to build a foundation of trust.” ~Patrick Lencioni in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

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How to Create a Compelling Service - pt 2

I have noticed a disturbing trend in the Western World Church. We have seemingly lost the art of evangelism. As Victory Churches, our vision is to REACH every available person by every available means at every available time with the Gospel of Jesus Christ; TEACH them to become like Christ; and MOBILIZE them to do the work of the ministry. Somewhere along the way we have drifted away from the REACH portion of our vision. How do we get it back?

At MyVictory Lethbridge we have been asking this question for 5 years and have discovered that the best way to expand our REACH is to create services unchurched people would love to attend without compromising the message. We remember that the Message is sacred, but the methods are not.

Here are three essential ingredients we have discovered that will create an irresistible service for the unchurched, and one that the churched would feel compelled to invite their unchurched friends, family, neighbours and co-workers to.

Three Essential Ingredients to Creating Irresistible Services:

  1. Is the setting ________________ ? Every ministry environment communicates something. There are no neutral environments. Environments are the messages before the message. It’s our responsibility to shape the way people view our church. We can’t leave this to chance.a. Clean & tidy communicates that we are ________________ someone. b. Organized communicates that we take what we do seriously. c. Having ________________ people in the parking lot communicates “we are expecting you and we are on top of things” d. Design, decor, and attention to ________________ communicate that we understand our target audience.
  2. Is the presentation ________________? a. Is it organized around a ________________ vision?

    • Preservice (create mood and welcoming atmosphere)
    • Opener (purpose is to make people smile or laugh).
    • Welcome (purpose is to inform newcomers of what to expect).
    • Music (Get their attention; Get their participation; Get their worship).
    • Transition (purpose is a prophetic leading in worship & greeting time).
    • Special (purpose is to create tension for the message).
    • Message (purpose is to show all that Jesus and the Bible are the answers they are looking for - one point takeaway).
    • Salvation Call (purpose is to introduce people to Jesus).
    • Offering.
    • Close (purpose is to give the 5 steps).
    • Postservice (create mood).

    b. Are we playing to our ________________? c. Are we shouting too ________________ ? d. Are we ________________ too much? e. Are we ________________ it? f. Are we staying ________________?

  3. Is the content ________________? We are trying to accomplish one of three things each service: a. Help people think ________________. b. Help people behave biblically.  (________________) c. Help people ________________ biblical teaching.


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