How Church Leaders can Mobilize their Churches for Community Ministry

Some of the kids in Operation Helping Hands

It’s exciting to see many churches embracing community and missional ministry more than ever. When I grew up, I can’t remember being challenged to go out into my community to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the poor and under-resourced. Perhaps that’s why it took me so long to personally ‘get it.’

The church where I now serve really ‘gets it.’ We are a church with a weekly attendance around 1,200 and after an intentional effort the last four years to become more missional, we’ve seen this fruit.

  • last year we gave more money to missional causes than we ever gave in a year’s time
  • 1500 participated in some way in local missional efforts, many multiple times
  • 100 went on a short-term missions project overseas
  • we just completed our annual Helping Hands project in the community and nearly 500 people from four different churches served

We even coined a term that has helped capture the spirit of our church: serving the Least, the Last, and the Lost.

So, what have we learned and what are some principles to keep in mind if you want your church to become more missional?

  1. Find a champion. One of our pastors had a vision 10 years ago for us to become more missional. He has persisted for those 10 years.
  2. Build missional ministry into your annual church objectives.
  3. Keep the vision before the church often. Repeat it in messages. Encourage small groups to do missional projects together. Celebrate victories and tell lots of stories.
  4. Offer multiple, small steps for your church. Stay persistent and don’t look for just one big thing to comprise the extent of your community ministry, although a big event can catalyze your church.
  5. Develop partners. Find local city our community agencies that need help and offer to help them. We’ve worked with over a dozen city agencies, the local United Way,  the city of Aurora, IL and several other churches.

Persistence will pay off. This year our church actually won the community “Volunteer of the Year” award from the local United Way.  We didn’t apply for it in any way. Rather, the committee that makes those choices had seen our extensive work in the community and made the decision.

So, as you lead your church, consider how to be Jesus’ hands and feet in the community.

Some great resources:

For more Ministry Help and Resources for Pastors, visit Pastor Stone’s main site.

My Review of the student devotional: Crash Course by Daniel Darling

Although my kids are well beyond the teen years, I wish I could have given them this devotional when they were kids.

Daniel Darling, a friend of mind, provided me a complementary copy of his new book called, Crash Course, forming a faith foundation for life.

Although written for the teen in mind, I was encouraged and learned a lot through the short two page devotionals. Each devotional includes a short story or insight on a particular subject. Daniel then includes a ‘Bottom Line’ statement that encapsulates the major theme. His ‘Own It’ suggestion includes a small, but doable project from reading a passage to watching a movie that reinforces the theme. He also adds a simple prayer and a verse of the day.

In 100 days, the reader will understand what it means to be a follower of Christ in these five areas.

  • Doctrine-knowing what you believe and why
  • Decisions-how to make good choices
  • Direction-what should I do with my life?
  • Devotion-Staying true in a world of lies
  • Delight-finding joy in a hard world

I highly encourage parents and student leaders to get a box of these books and get them in the hands of teens.

Daniel also wrote Teen People of the Bible.

PS-his website is one of the coolest, cleanest I’ve ever seen.

For more Books, Tips and Resources for Pastors, visit Pastor Stone’s main site.

Why Pastors are Sometimes Like Turtles

Recently Leadership Network asked 40 pastors (including the likes of Wayne Cordeiro and Elmer Towns) to explain in 6 minutes what they wish they had done differently in ministry. They held an online conference called SAGE.

As one of the speakers, I spoke on why I wish I was less like a turtle.

You can read an article that Leadership Journal posted, Animal Instincts, taken from my book 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them that unpacks this concept in more detail.

Do your ever find yourself responding like this to ministry’s challenges?

CS Leadership from Ginger Creek Community Church on Vimeo.

For more Resources, Tips and Help for Pastors, visit Pastor Stone’s main site.

What Does Jesus Smell Like?

Do you ever think about the fragrance of Christ? What is it, what does it mean. And really, what DOES He smell like?

I once read one of those tear-jerker email forwards about a baby girl who was born severely premature and was not expected to live. Due to her immature little immune system, her parents were unable to hold her or touch her. As she lay there isolated in the incubator, webs of tangled tubing pouring from her tiny body, her mother fervently, desperately prayed that somehow, some way Jesus would hold her little girl in her stead.

This little girl miraculously survived and became a completely healthy, bubbly 5-year-old. One day, she was with her mother at her older brother’s little league game. The sky was darkening, and a rain shower was imminent. Her mother looked at the sky and casually commented, “Oh, it smells like rain.”

Her daughter crossed her arms, looked at her mother with furrowed little eyebrows, and said, “No, it doesn’t.”

Her mother then asked, “Well, honey, what does it smell like?”

She said, “It smells like him.”

“Who, honey?”

She calmly replied, “It smells like Jesus, when you lay your head on His chest, and He holds you.”

The fragrance of the Savior.

* * * * *

Many of you know that one of the ways we show Christ’s love to the women working in the adult industry are through gifts — gifts of fun, girly things like body sprays, lotions, scented candles. No strings attached. Expecting nothing in return. Because they ARE worth it.

Our prayer for each and every one of these gifts is that every time the woman smells the sweet fragrance of a lotion on her skin, inhales the scent of a candle filling her home, spritzes a body spray onto her wrists, that that scent will be a tangible reminder of Someone who values her, welcomes her, plans for her, and LOVES her. . . always, forever, with no strings attached.

What we hope becomes the fragrance of Christ.

Perhaps our Jesus does smell like the coming rain.

Or a freshly-fallen winter snow?

What if He smells like the mountains at sunrise, the air thick with pine tree and wetness?

Or the salty spray of the ocean off the rocky cliffs at sunset?

What if He is orange blossom and jasmine, lemongrass and lavender, basil and bergamot?

Or, what if the fragrance of Christ is something as simple as the scent of “Warm Vanilla Sugar” body lotion, intermingled with the fierce love and tender mercy of a couple of girls who go to these women and tell them, “You, precious woman, are insanely, infinitely, desperately, overwhelmingly, perfectly LOVED. We just wanted you to know.”

Related post: Strip-Club Ministry: My Daughter’s Story

For more Uplifting Resources for Discouraged Pastors, visit Pastor Stone’s main site.

How an iPad Improved my Devotional Life

I’m a busy pastor and am committed to developing my walk with Jesus through several spiritual disciplines. One discipline I practice is a daily time with God when I read Scripture, pray, and journal.

ipad 2

Before I owned an iPad, my quiet time looked like this.

  • read my bible (the paper version), often reading several different bibles to compare translations
  • read a devotional from a paper book
  • journal with pen and paper and later I journaled on my Mac in a Word doc
  • pray through my prayer list on a Treo outlining program, when I got an iPhone I began to use it

Here’s what has changed since I got my iPad 6 weeks ago.

  • read my bible on my iPad using Olive Tree’s BibleReader program (multiple versions, side-by-side comparison, ability to hi-light, take notes, and cut and paste into another program)
  • read an e-devotional from one of the best bible study apps, Logos
  • journal on my iPad using a program called MaxJournal
  • pray through my prayer list using a program called PrayerLists

How this has improved my devotional life.

  • While not feeling rushed, having these tools all in one place has saved time that I can now devote to the actual spiritual exercise.
  • Reading on the big iPad screen using BibleReader is an incredible experience as I can view side-by-side 2 translations at once, can pull up commentaries alongside the text, can copy a verse and paste in into my journal, can hi-light in one color verses I’m memorizing and hi-light in another color a verse that stands out
  • MaxJournal gives a very nice layout, the ability to search, and the ability to use the on-screen keyboard or a bluetooth keyboard. Very cool.
  • PrayerLists provides an easy way to record prayer needs and allows me to schedule them on the days I want to pray for those needs.
  • Having everything in one small package makes it more convenient since I don’t have to lug around four things-bible, journal, devotional, and prayer list.

Struggles I still face.

  • To be honest, I still feel kinda’ guilty not reading out of a paper bible. Sometimes I feel like I’m not really reading the bible though the more I read from BibleReader, the less guilty I feel. :)
  • It is a bit of a hassle with the current iPad os to move back and forth between programs, but OS 4.0 will allow multi-tasking.
  • PrayerLists is not yet adapted for iPad but the developer is working on it.
  • At first it seemed too ‘tech-y,’ but the more I use this system, the more I’m finding this tool to be an invaluable help in my walk with Christ.

If you have an iPad, has it helped you grow? if so, how?

In a few weeks I’ll post my experience using the iPad in preaching.

Related posts: How Pastors can Benefit from an iPad