5 Reasons Churches should Often Celebrate Wins

Several years ago the church where I served celebrated its 25th year anniversary and we planned a big celebration. I’ve shared below what we did and then some key learnings about the importance of celebration.

Party Candles on a Slice of Birthday Cake

What we did…

Our creative arts team created a fantastic experience that told the story of the last 25 years in all three of our services that weekend. It included several video testimonies, several ‘best of’ dramas, and some of the church’s favorite solos through the years.

I spoke for less that five minutes. I made a last minute change to can my 15 minute prepared message because I felt it would intrude into the moment. We finished the service with some incredible worship. We then held a picnic afterwards that provided lots of fellowship time for former members to mingle with their friends still at the church.

What I learned…

I reflected on this experience and believe these five reasons justify regular celebrations, whether you celebrate major milestones or small ministry wins.

  1. Scripture often tells us to remember God’s blessings (Ps 77.11). Celebration helps us embody that truth.
  2. Celebration helps people feel like they are part of a movement that is truly winning.
  3. Celebration helps mitigate a message that our ‘success’ culture often breeds that we don’t measure up.
  4. Celebration builds confidence in leadership that they are leading the church in the right direction.
  5. Celebration taps that ‘made in God’s image’ part of us. God created us to worship and when we celebrate His goodness, we feel most fully alive.

So, our 25th year anniversary reminded me that as a pastor I must lead our church to often celebrate our wins, even the small ones.

How do you regularly celebrate your church’s wins?

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A Leader’s Heart: 5 Questions You Should Ask Yourself

The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.25-37), one of Jesus’ most famous stories, describes the power of true love. In this story, Jesus contrasts those with big heads (the priest and the levite who had heads full of Bible knowledge) with one who had a big heart, the Samaritan. This story also offers clues about leaders with big hearts. Read that passage and then ask yourself these 5 questions based on the story and evaluate your own leadership heart.

Hands make heart shape
  1. Do I serve others based on their needs or upon the potential value they may bring to my ministry or cause?
    • Historically, Jews and Samaritans hated each other. Yet, the Samaritan stopped and aided the man who had been robbed and left for dead.
  2.  Am I willing to be inconvenienced in order to serve others?
    • The Samaritan had places to be, yet he was willing to be inconvenienced. He paid a price with his time and money because he didn’t view people as an inconvenience.
  3. When faced with an opportunity to serve another, do I use the excuse, “Somebody else will”?
    • Research has proven that when I have an opportunity to help someone if I think somebody else will help, the chances I will help drop precipitously. It’s called the bystander effect.
  4. Do I simply talk the talk or do I walk my talk? 
    • The priest and the levite both were trained in the Scriptures, as are pastors. They knew the right stuff but it didn’t affect their behavior. They talked it but didn’t walk it. Genuine love for God is less about what you know than what you do.
  5. Do I serve so much that I lose myself in the process?
    • In ministry, needs never go away and we can easily serve with few limits. The Samaritan served the man by the road and he kept healthy boundaries at the same time. He didn’t bring him back to his home nor did he obligate himself financially for the rest of his life. And after he took are of him, he continued on his journey.

John Maxwell is known for this saying.

People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care. 

Great advice for pastors and leaders.

Have have you made your heart larger?

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Do these 4 Steps Lead to a Pastor’s Moral Failure?

Each year it seems that another famous pastor steps down due to moral failure. As I’ve read about these falls, I’ve often wondered if there are threads common to these falls. H. B. London interviewed Archibald Hart, author and Dean Emeritus at Fuller seminary, several years ago on this subject. He suggested four steps that lead to moral failure in a pastor’s life.


In their interview they discuss how depression from pastoral burnout can lead to loss of vision, loss of ideals, an “I don’t care attitude,” and potentially result in moral compromise.

Dr. Hart then describes this progression of steps that leads to moral failure using what he calls the four A’s.

Listening to these four A’s caused me to pause to make sure I don’t go down that path. Often pastors and other spiritual leaders slowly move down this path without realizing it.

What would you add to this list of warnings signs of moral failure?

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3 Simple Questions that Can Make or Break Leadership Effectiveness

Sometimes leaders can view their role only encompassing the big-picture, long-term, and strategic kind of stuff. I’ve learned, however, that how I treat simple one-on-one encounters with others may impact my leadership and my church in greater ways than my big-picture stuff. I suggest silently asking yourself these three questions when you’re with another person at your church or organization.

Business people standing with question mark on boards

3 Key Questions that Can Make or Break Leadership Effectiveness

  • If I were in this person’s shoes, would he or she feel loved by me?
  • What does this person need from me now and how can I meet it?
  • What is God doing in this person’s life and how does He want me to help?

Perhaps these questions are ways to live out the maxim, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

What are some other subtle leadership insights you’ve learned that affect leadership effectiveness?

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Is This the Most Important Time on Sundays for a Pastor?

I’ve been in full-time vocational ministry 35 years and have always believed that the most important use of my time on Sunday was when I brought the message. I still believe that, but now also believe that the second most important time is right before and right after the service. I call it my ‘ministry of presence.’ My high visibility as I chat with people, shake their hands, and give them a listening ear provides a tiny “one-on-one” window into their hearts. I believe those brief interactions may affect some people more than the sermon itself. Here are four simple choices we can make to maximize that time.

Hands are holding the blackboard of time to listen concept against gray background.
  • Look for the “deer-in-the-headlights” faces.

This look often telegraphs new people. I look at peoples’ eyes and I can usually catch their, “I’m new here and have no idea what to do or where to go.” I will introduce myself and try to make them feel that I really care. A touch like that from a pastor can make a profound impact on a new person.

  • Seek out those in wheelchairs, those with canes, or those with other physical or mental challenges.

One guy, Robin, came to our service years ago in a motorized wheelchair while attached to a ventilator that kept him alive. I intentionally reached out to him several Sundays in a row. The relationship grew and I had the privilege of later leading him to Christ and baptizing him. He’s now with the Lord. Had I missed those touch points, I may have never gained his trust to share the Gospel with him.

  • Give your full attention to people to whom you talk.

Avoid communicating, “I’m talking to you now but I am looking over your shoulder to get ready to talk to the next person.” People will quickly sense a half-hearted listener.

This may sound harsh, but some people will hog the entire time before and after a service as they talk about themselves or some problem they’re facing. Sometimes I’ve even walked up a different aisle to avoid getting cornered by a monopolizer.

These simple practices have made many lasting spiritual deposits in others as I offered them my “ministry of presence.”

What have you done to increase your ‘ministry of presence?

If you are not a pastor, what advice would you give to us pastors to help people feel special on Sundays?

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