The kids’ choirs are practicing their songs. UPS is scheduled to drop off the candles for the candle lighting by the end of the week. The special Christmas songs are already in PCO. Christmas service prep is fully in motion!
As all these special elements come together, I want to draw our attention to the people attending our services.
We must remember, everyone coming to our Christmas services are at different places in their walk with the Lord. Some are seasoned believers, others are brand new to the faith. Some are struggling in their faith while others are completely outside the faith altogether.
We must intentionally think about these 4 different groups of people and ask ourselves, “How is our Christmas service meeting them where they are?”
If everything catered to the seasoned believer, then those who are new to the faith or aren’t Christians at all will feel lost and potentially confused. If the whole service spoke to the on fire believers, then those asking questions and struggling in their faith could leave feeling even more isolated and alone.
Here’s something that we must remember: it’s human nature to cater towards where we are at personally.
Naturally we create things that most resonate with what we are passionate about, what we think, and what best connects to our story. So if you’re an on fire lover of Jesus, that’s the primary lens you’ll think and create through. But great leaders think beyond their lens and seek to reach everyone.
Achieving this, however, is definitely one of those good old-fashioned “easier said than done” kind of things. So today our hope is to connect you with ways your Christmas service can have a significant touchpoint with all 4 of those different groups of people.
1) The Seasoned Believer
Within this group of people are a huge variety of experiences. Those that have been around their faith for a long time and are fired up about celebrating the newborn King. You’ll also find individuals that wouldn’t be classified as struggling in their faith, they’re confident in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, but maybe the fire has subsided a bit.
For these individuals, it’s important that we remind them of the wonder of the Messiah.
The wonder of how we have direct access to Emmanuel, God with us, that has opened the door for us to live and walk in new life. The transformation, the healing, everything present in our lives, is because of the life of Jesus.
For the seasoned believer, let’s create moments of looking behind us at all that God has done throughout our past that can’t keep us from singing out o’come let us adore Him.
2) New Believers
No matter who you are, my point in the first section applies. Let’s fill these people with wonder and gratitude for all the Lord has brought them through to get here. But in addition to this, new believers have this amazing opportunity to be introduced to the depths of the Christmas story. So connect them with the beautiful language that we see in Silent Night, declaring “chains shall he break for the slave is our brother and in his name all oppression shall cease.”
At Christmas we have an amazing opportunity to continue to shape and reshape the understanding of those who are new to Christiantiy.
So take time to share why we are singing so many songs that celebrate the coming of the Messiah. Share how for so long the people of God were waiting on the promised Messiah to arrive. Some had completely lost hope and feared it wasn’t true and then He came in Jesus.
When we take time to explain the meaning and significance of the season, it connects those who are new to the heart of God in an even deeper way.
3) The Unbeliever
To keep in theme with the previous point, all of the above applies here too. Those outside the faith will more than likely be coming in with vague and minimal experiences with the songs, the traditions, and story. So how can you breathe new life and reveal the beauty of what they might already be familiar with?
In addition to these things, how can you connect to their story to make them feel comfortable?
I remember when I was a kid I went and visited my friend’s church for their Christmas service. The church service was extremely different than my church’s typical format. Tons of sitting and standing. At one point we left our seat to go up to the front to take communion out of this massive cup. All the people in front of me were doing different hand motions and saying all these different things. I was so anxious that I was going to do something wrong and stick out like a sore thumb.
And sure enough I did. The pastor turned his head in confusion when I got to the front of the line and then smirked. I felt like everyone around me was starring at me as I wrongly grabbed the cup and shrugged. Needless to say, I spent the service wishing I could climb underneath the pew in front of me and disappear.
We have to remember that we have tons of people coming to our Christmas services that have never been to our churches before. So let’s think through how we can make them comfortable.
Even simple things like letting them know what the service is going to look like. “You might see people raising their hands and getting excited. Well that’s because…” or “Today we’re going to sing a few songs, hear a short encouraging word from our pastor, watch the kids perform a special song, etc. During all that we want you to feel comfortable. So sit if you want to, sing along or not, keep your hat on, whatever allows you to feel comfortable. We are so stoked that you’re here and want you to know that this is your home.”
This might feel excessive, but making accommodations for these individuals to feel comfortable will allow them to have a beautiful experience, free of distraction and filled with uninterrupted encounter.
4) The Struggling Believer
To state it plainly, there will be people in your church services this year who are struggling. Whether it be tragedy, a crisis of faith, some painful things that Christmas brings up in their heart – there are people in real need that don’t want to sing Joy to the World.
The worst thing we can do for those who are struggling is create a service that overlooks where they’re at.
So genuinely, what can you do in your Christmas service to let these people know they’re not alone?
A few years ago, I wrote a song for our Christmas service that explicitly talked about being tired and without hope in the midst of a season that’s supposed to bring joy to the world. It was brutally honest and it didn’t resolve with a nice cute bow. At the end of the Christmas service weekend we were flooded with messages at how much it meant to so many people, who were coming into church that weekend struggling. It expressed to them that there was a place for them in our community.
When we acknowledge the things people are walking through & create space for it to exist in our gatherings, it teaches people that all of who they are is welcomed and safe.
Here’s the thing, they are already struggling. People are already coming in with heavy loads. Failing to acknowledge those things doesn’t make them go away. In some cases it only further isolates people. What sounds more like Jesus than creating a space for people to come into His presence truly as they are?
Now you don’t have to write a song that talks about the struggle.
But what if you took 30-seconds before you go into All Hail King Jesus to say, “For some of you, these words are really hard to sing. Know that God is with you in it, we are with you in it, and you are why the Messiah came. To draw near to you as Emmaunel, God WITH us. Even if He feels further than the moon, know He’s with you today!”
There are so many things you can do to reach these different groups of people at your Christmas service this year.
The point of this post is not to give you a step by step of the best ways to reach these 4 different groups of people. It’s simply for us as leaders to remember all who are coming. So that we can craft a Christmas service that creates significant moments for all.
Worship Leader, last thing to remember as you step into your Christmas services
There are people coming into your services who need what your community is presenting. And so in the midst of all the special planning and things, please know you are changing people’s lives. You are breathing fresh oxygen into weary souls. You are increasing the revelation of the Messiah in the hearts and minds of so many. What you do is significant. So, in the chaos may purpose strengthen your bones as you lead a community of people to adore the King of Israel.
In the midst of busy schedules and chaos, here is a Thanksgiving prayer to help you pause, breathe, and thank God for His many blessings.
It seems a sort of cruel joke that that the time of the year most set aside for reflection and pausing also happens to be the time of year when things are the busiest. To-do lists keep growing. Errands keep accumulating. And stress seems like the natural default mode of our existence.
With as crazy a season as the holidays tend to be, when you finally do get a chance to try to practice the gratitude this season centers around, when you finally get a moment to quiet yourself down, all you really want is a nap. The truth is, it would be nice if starting in September we had made plans to make a gratitude tree would fill in the month of November. But practicing gratitude doesn’t just need to be for those of us with foresight, margin or a zen like disposition.
As the days to Thanksgiving continue to countdown, there’s space for all of us–even the most stressed out, spread thin, and overwhelmed of us. This year, when you feel behind because the holiday planning wasn’t as meaningful as you had hoped, and the days went far faster than you expected, there’s no reason Thanksgiving can’t still allow room for you to pause, to breathe, and to give thanks.
In the next few days, find five minutes to get alone, close a door, and take three, slow, long deep breaths. And pray a prayer of thanks.
A Prayer of Thanks
God, the giver of good things, we give back to you, thanks.
Thank you for creating.
Thank you for revealing.
Thank you for surprising us with your goodness
Thank you for the breadcrumbs of goodness you leave for us to find.
Thank you for eyes to see goodness,
Ears to hear goodness,
And a heart to appreciate goodness.
Thank you that good and beautiful and true things are all evidence of You.
We give thanks.
God, giver of good things, sometimes the goodness is hard to find; the breadcrumbs impossible to follow; the evidence harder to believe.
Hiring a lead pastor is a challenging task. Click through for a complete guide to hiring a lead pastor. We also share important do’s and don’ts for the hiring process.
A lead pastor wears many hats and is likely the first person people think about when your church is mentioned.
Since it’s a special position, hiring the right lead pastor is a challenge. Fortunately, we can help. Keep reading for a complete guide to hiring a lead pastor. We also share do’s and don’ts for choosing and appointing a lead pastor.
The Responsibilities of a Lead Pastor
The lead pastor’s core responsibility to the church is to equip members for ministry. Ephesians 4:11-13 says:
“So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Generally, the lead pastor’s main duties include the following:
Serving as the face of the church for the community.
Teaching frequently at weekend services.
Performing weddings, funerals, and other ceremonies involving church members.
Aligning church activities with its mission.
Taking care of the church’s staff and volunteers.
Raising funds for church activities.
A lead pastor may also perform a number of other duties, depending on the culture, structure, denomination, and tradition of the church.
Step-by-Step Guide to Hiring a Lead Pastor
There’s a fair bit of crossover between hiring a lead pastor and a business leader. In both cases, you need the right steps to find the right person.
As we’ve covered before, a lead pastor has many responsibilities. That’s why it’s important to make a job posting that won’t scare possible candidates off.
You still need to detail what’s expected of the candidate as well as their responsibilities, but leave room for discussion. This way, they won’t be deterred and have a higher chance of applying.
Once you have a job posting, you can post it on church staffing platforms. You can also publish the job posting among church members, your church’s denominational network, and other channels.
2. Build a Pastoral Search Committee
There’s wisdom in counsel, as stated in Proverbs 19:20: “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.”
A pastor search committee represents your congregation and ensures that it’s not just one person choosing the new lead pastor. This helps alleviate pressure and ensures an impartial decision when choosing a lead pastor.
Where do you get members for the pastoral committee? You can have church members nominate members. Afterward, hold a vote to determine which nominees are on the committee.
3. Review Resumes and Applications
Start reviewing candidate applications after your committee is formed. Examine the candidate’s key qualifications, like their educational background and church experience.
You shouldn’t stop there, though. If a candidate catches your eye, call their previous employers and churches for a background check. You can also watch the candidate’s past sermons to determine if they’re a good fit for your church.
We suggest shortlisting around ten candidates from all the applicants. These ten candidates can then proceed to interviews.
4. Interview the Candidate
You can dig up more details about your candidate during the interview process. One of the first things you should ask is, “What is your personal testimony?” You can learn a lot from a pastor candidate by listening to this story and how they articulate it.
You should also ask questions that gauge the candidate’s spiritual maturity. Determine whether they’re truly called to become a lead pastor in your church or they’re just looking for bigger salaries.
The main goal of the interview process isn’t just to determine whether the committee likes the candidate. Interviews also help you get a good feel for whether the candidate fits your church culture.
5. Choose the Candidate and Job Offering
Every church has its own way of finalizing the pastor hiring process. But, generally, candidates who pass multiple interview rounds will make a personal visit to the church.
You can organize a meet and greet between the lead pastor candidate and church members. Here, your church family can ask the pastor candidate questions, and you can see whether they’re a true cultural fit for your church. If most church members accept the candidate, you can give them a written offer to finalize the hiring process.
Mistakes to Avoid When Looking for a Lead Pastor
Choosing the right lead pastor means your church will be in good hands. Conversely, choosing the wrong one can bring problems to your church and potentially cause conflict between staff and members.
Here are the potential mistakes to avoid when recruiting a lead pastor:
Searching for a Lead Pastor Alone
Searching for a lead pastor shouldn’t be a one-man show. You’ll have a harder time choosing a lead pastor and getting them approved by your community if you do it alone.
A pastoral committee can advise each other on which lead pastor candidate to choose, true to what’s written in Proverbs 12:15: “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.”
Searching Too Quickly or Too Slowly
We understand wanting to take your time picking a lead pastor. It’s a big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But going too fast is just as dangerous as going too slow.
Moving too fast with your lead pastor search means you might not vet candidates thoroughly before choosing. Conversely, moving too slowly might make great candidates tired of waiting. This leads to them taking offers from other places.
Don’t rush, but don’t go too slowly, either.
Listing Overly Unrealistic Expectations
A lead pastor wears many hats, so it’s normal to expect a lot out of them. However, unrealistic expectations may scare candidates off.
Instead of writing all the qualities you need from a lead pastor in the job posting, consider putting just some of them in. You can find out whether the candidate fits your requirements once you interview them.
Things to Do When Searching for a Lead Pastor
In addition to potential mistakes to avoid, here are some tips to follow when choosing your lead pastor:
Pray for Guidance
Praying for God’s guidance is one of the most important things you can do in your pastor search. Have your pastoral search committee pray alongside church members, asking for God’s guidance to lead you to the perfect lead pastor.
Appoint an Interim Pastor
If you’re hiring to replace a departing lead pastor, there’ll be a considerable gap in your church’s ranks. To fill this gap, you may need to choose an interim pastor. They can help shoulder the former lead pastor’s responsibilities while you look for a new one.
Your interim pastor can be a new hire, but you can also choose one from your existing clergy.
Understand Your Church
A church’s primary mission is to serve God and its community – that much is certain. However, every church has different ways to achieve those goals. Identify how your church worships, achieves its goals, and runs its day-to-day operations to learn what kind of lead pastor your church needs.
Consult Past Lead Pastors
Your church may have had previous lead pastors. One of the best ways to determine the key traits of a lead pastor is to ask someone who’s been there before.
Consider interviewing your previous lead pastors about what’s needed to excel at the job, then build your job description based on what they say. This way, you have an easier time finding somebody that fits your previous lead pastor’s shoes.
Lead pastors are essential because they represent your church and hold many responsibilities. Unfortunately, that makes choosing a lead pastor more challenging than filling other positions in the church.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though. To learn more about hiring a great lead pastor, check out this YouTube video on hiring the right candidate.
This has been an excruciating crisis to live through and lead through.
While 25% of all workers want to quit their jobs right now, it appears it may be even worst for church leaders. Apparently, the majority of pastors are at least thinking about it.
In this widely-shared article, Thom Rainer explains that the vast majority of pastors he and his team work with want to quit. The pandemic, division, workload, in-fighting, levels of criticism and loss of momentum in most churches is too discouraging for most pastors.
Thom is right…there has never been a more discouraging season to be a leader. And if your experience is like most pastors, everyone’s angry with you to boot (here’s a post on why everyone’s so mad at you right now).
I recently had a conversation with a top search firm CEO who predicted that next year will be a year of massive turnover in part, because the crisis has made people rethink their options.
I’m writing this post not to convince you to stay where you are, but to think twice before you quit.
Nobody has to stay anywhere forever.
There are good reasons to leave what you’re doing. Over my life, I’ve left fledgling careers in radio and law, exited a denomination and most recently made another change.
After 25 years of ministry, yesterday I preached my final sermon as part of the teaching team at the church I founded, wrapping up a 5 year succession plan that completes a 25 year ministry.
But there are also bad reasons to leave.
So today, let me be your (free) counsellor/friend. Talk you off the ledge. I’ve needed that conversation more than a few times in my decades of leadership so I could finish instead of quitting.
I’ve been discouraged, defeated, exhausted and pretty much done more than once. But I never left in those seasons.
Looking back, I’m so grateful I didn’t.
So what do you want to do when you want to throw in the towel?
Here are a few things I learned about quitting for the wrong reasons, and a few things about leaving for the right ones.
1. Quitting is Different than Finishing
Quitting is easy. Finishing is hard.
Both quitting and finishing result in the same outcome: you leave. Nobody, after all, stays forever.
But quitting usually involves surrendering to the pain or letting the circumstances control your exit.
By contrast, finishing usually involves pushing through the pain to a moment or season where the circumstances move both you and the mission forward as best you can.
Leaders who quit usually surrender to impulse or unresolved pain. Leaders who finish well don’t.
As a result, leaders who finish well leave far different legacy than leaders who quit.
2. Your Exit Becomes Your Legacy
On that note, your exit determines the legacy you leave behind, both for the organization and for you personally.
People rarely remember how you started in an organization. They always remember how you left.
You can erase years of great leadership in moments with a poor exit. Quitting because you’re frustrated, discouraged, defeated or exhausted rarely creates a great departure.
The way you leave becomes your legacy.
Years or decades of sincere, hard, good work can get reduced to a sentence like “Yeah, he just packed up and left town”, “He got so bitter at the end”, “She burned every bridge” or “His last year left us all scrambling”.
3. Your Problems Follow You
You’ve probably heard the marriage advice (or given it) that all your unresolved issues follow you into your next relationship.
The same is true of leadership.
Relationally, starting over with someone new usually sounds way more promising than it is. Why? Well, you have a pretty realistic (pessimistic) view of the person you’re with which you’re ready to trade in for an idealistic view of the person you want to be with. In your mind, this new person is perfect, while your present partner is sooooo inferior.
Of course, what you’re forgetting is not only is that picture inaccurate on both counts, but this: You bring yourself with you wherever you go.
Whatever issues you don’t resolve now, you’ll have to resolve in the future.
The same is true in leadership. You have a very realistic view of how hard your current situation is.
But you imagine your new situation with an idealistic view point. They’ll appreciate me. They’ll do what I ask them to do. Their team won’t argue.
That, of course, is also what you thought the last time.
Here’s what I’ve learned: your unresolved issues follow you wherever you go.
We went through a really painful season of leadership about 15 years ago. I wasn’t tempted to leave the church, but we were selling our house around the same time.
I was really tempted to leave the community I was living in and move to a different city nearby. We could start over again, I told myself.
But as my wife and I prayed about it, I became convicted we need to stay. We move ten minutes down the road.
Which meant we’d travel the same roads, shop in the same stories, get groceries at the same supermarket, and run into the same people we had struggled with.
It was exactly the right medicine. That forced me to look at my own failings, to see where I was wrong, and to practice forgiveness.
Escape is poor substitute for personal growth, forgiveness and change.
The challenge with quitting is that your issues and problems come with you. They didn’t quit, you did.
4. Running toward your future is better than running away from your past
If you can—and in a carefully discerned departure you usually have time to do this before you go— ask yourself what you’re called to next.
In my current situation, in addition to a sense that the current season was drawing to a close, that a well-executed succession plan was important for all, there was also a budding sense that a new calling or assignment was being birthed: to help leaders thrive.
One of the reasons transitions are so painful (particularly as you get older as a leader) is because all your best days feel like they’re behind you.
Find some wise counsel around you who can help you discern what’s next before you leave what’s now.
Running toward your future is a much better move than running away from your past.
5. A Bad Season Is the Worst Time To Make A Big Decision
So just to frame this season in context, this really is a bad moment. And it’s impacting leaders deeply.
In 2016, only 14% of pastors said they’re mental and emotional health was average to poor.
By April 2020, that number more than doubled, growing to 35%.
In August 2020, fully 50% of pastors now say their mental and emotional health was average to poor.
I wonder where that number will move to as the crisis continues to spiral out of control.
I know when I’m in a discouraging, difficult and depressing season, one of the first things to go is my judgment.
When I’m not in a good place mentally or spiritually, I make emotional decisions and try to back fill them with logic. Or maybe I don’t even bother trying to be logical. I just make (bad) decisions.
As a result, I’ve realized that a bad season is the worst time to make a big decision. This is true for anything from quitting your job, to leaving your spouse to (honestly) even making big financial decisions.
Never quit on a bad day.
Sure, maybe you are called to move on.
Give the decision room to breathe. Pray. Bring in wise counsel. Consult. Hire a coach. Read. Reflect. Think.
Get healthy, and if you can’t do that right now (because it will be a long journey), at least get healthy people around you to make some recommendations.
If you can, make your decision to finish up on a good day.
If it’s a bad day, stick it out or let other people make the decision with your, or if it’s really bad, have them make the decision for you.