December 31, 2013

How to Communicate Your Church’s Vision Visually (2014 Ministry Vision and Planning Countdown Post #4)

Communicate your church vision visuallyIf you are clear about who you are and where you are going as a church that’s awesome. Now it’s time to help everyone else in the world to see it, catch it and pass it on.

The single most powerful way to help people become contagious carriers of your vision is to give it to them visually! Did you know that of all five of your senses, your brain allocates 80% of its energy to the eyes. We are visual thinkers. I have watched over and over and over, how many people NEVER get the vision through words alone.

So what kind of visuals are we talking about? Allow me to explain two ways. First, I will ask you some simple questions as a bit of a litmus test. Second, I have attached Auxano’s brand process guide to illustrate how we build a design and communication toolbox for churches.

Have You Communicated Vision Visually?

  • Does your logo tell a story or create a conversation starting point?
  • Do you hand out a program or worship guide during services that is hard to throw away?
  • Is your church’s mobile website easy to use and engaging?
  • Can you draw your church’s strategy as a simple napkin sketch? (i.e., how you make disciples)
  • Do you capture video testimonies that illustrate your church’s mission, vision and values in the lives of people?
  • Do you have stylistically appealing tagline? (font, color, placement)
  • Can you read and see things about your church on social media (facebook, twitter, instagram)?
  • Do you have a 3-5 minute anchor video that shows where God is taking your church?
  • Do you have a consistent set of purposefully chosen design elements (based on you mission and values) that make up the look and fee of your primary communication tools?
  • Does your space intentionally utilize your church’s brand from architectural pieces and symbols to banners and signage?

Would you like to do a better job this year with this important aspect of vision-casting? If so, check out the brand process guide that we use at Auxano. It tells the story of the design and communication toolbox we did for Christ Fellowship in West Palm Beach last year.

DOWNLOAD:  The Auxano Brand Process Guide

If you are interested in getting some outside help for branding & design, you can let us know here:

Fill out my online form.

December 30, 2013

14 Posts You Loved (of over 500 Written) – #3 on the 2014 Ministry Vision and Planning Countdown

December 29, 2013

#5 on the 2014 Ministry Vision and Planning Countdown: Mike Breen’s Invitation & Challenge Matrix

At this point in our series,  I want to introduce you to one of the most powerful matrix concepts I have seen taught for discipleship. The source is Mike Breen and the fantastic team over at 3DM. This simple tool is useful for planning, vision casting, assessment, correction and leadership development. The chart below is pretty self explanatory.

Mike Breen's Invitation - Challenge Matrix for Making Disciples

Below you will find three excerpts from posts defining the matrix and two tools for you to use.  The first tool is a link to Community of Hope’s Kevin Vogt who does a short leadership piece with the matrix. Finally, I have included a “must see” support video, that is an amazingly powerful illustration of invite-challenge using the training of horses as an illustration. The first time I was taught this tool, I saw the video. It will be awesome to use during a leadership training even in 2014!


By Robert Neely on the 3dm team

Who is the best teacher you ever had? The best leader? The best mentor?

No matter whether you’re thinking about a teacher, a coach, a conductor, a parent, a youth-group leader, or some other guide in your life, chances are that the person who sprung to mind when you read those first three questions did two key things:

1)   He or she gave you access to his/her knowledge, expertise, experience – and maybe even life.

2)   He or she called you to be better than you were at a specific skill, talent, task – and maybe even life.

To put it another way, the best teachers and leaders and mentors both invite us and challenge us. Both are necessary to truly help a person grow.

This is true for music teachers, volleyball coaches, dance instructors, and head chefs, and it’s also true for people who disciple others to become followers of Jesus. As in all of these other areas, invitation and challenge are necessary to truly help a person become like Jesus was and to do what Jesus did.

Read more from Robert

By Ron Edmonson

Invitation - This refers to the atmosphere and degree of welcoming a church or an individual message provides. Do people enjoy being there? Do they want to come back? Is it inviting? Is a message fun to listen to? Is it encouraging and helpful?

Challenge - This refers to the degree others are encouraged to grow in their walk with Christ. Are they challenged? Are they held accountable? Are personal disciplines encouraged? Are sins exposed? Are expectations strong? The theory is that churches tend to fall into one of these four quadrants:

  • Low Invitation / High Challenge – Produces a discouraged/burnout culture.
  • Low Invitation / Low Challenge – Produces a bored culture.
  • High Invitation / Low Challenge – Produces a cozy/chaplaincy culture.
  • High Invitation / High Challenge – Produces a discipling culture.

Read more for Ron

By Ben Sternke

Invitation refers to an attitude that says, “I’m glad you are here, I’m committed to you and will welcome you no matter what.” Challenge refers to an attitude that says, “I want you to grow, I’m committed to holding you accountable to change for the better.”

People are used to experiencing cultures that are either highly invitational or highly challenging, but typically they don’t ever experience them together. Left to our own devices as leaders, we tend to either create cultures that are “high invitation/low challenge” (cozy, consumer) or “high challenge/low invitation” (stressed/discouraged), or perhaps we swing between the two, unsure of how to actually bring both at the same time.

Read more from Ben




This is fairly self explanatory. The trainer is the video is modeling a way to “break a horse” that is not customary. It has been the custom for years to use physical force or overly harsh methods to train. But Monty (the trainer) studied how horses naturally get assimilated or adopted by another family of horses. He then adapts the technique as a human. The technique beautifully illustrates the back-and-forth nature of invitation and challenge in the breaking process.

Support video for mike breen's invitation challenge matrix


December 28, 2013

Ministry Vision & Planning Series: Three Disciple Making Catalysts in the Life of Jesus (#6 of the 2014 Countdown)

Jesus the disciple maker It’s easy for the church’s disciple-making mission to get cluttered with lots of programmatic stuff. So as you look ahead to the next year, try refreshing your conviction for disciple-making by looking to the Master himself.

In each of the three synoptic gospels we see a different scene in the life of Jesus just before he calls his twelve disciples. Each snapshot, I believe,  reveals a unique aspect of both the heart of Jesus and his earthly-eternal kingdom strategy.

 Snapshot #1: The Great Opportunity Meets a Great Shortage (Matthew 9:35-38)

Before Jesus calls the twelve from Matthew’s perspective, we see the compassion of Jesus for the crowds. As he looked over masses (sheep without a shepherd) he observes that “the harvest is plenty but the workers are few.” His last command before selecting his inner circle is to pray earnestly to the Lord of the Harvest to send out laborers. In the light of the urgent opportunity Jesus begins investing deeply into the Twelve. The first catalyst is the massive gap between the need and the manpower.

 Snapshot #2: Building the Infrastructure Not the Popularity (Mark 3:7-12)

Mark shows us a different angle of Jesus’ motive just before he appoints the Twelve. In this passage he repeats the phrase “great crowd” showing for the first time the sheer volume of people who were responding to Jesus. Not only that, he shows the intensity of their pursuit by explaining how the people were “pressing around him” and how they needed to escape in a boat “lest they be crushed.” If that wasn’t enough even the demons cried out that he was the Son of God. What was Jesus final act before appointing the twelve? Jesus strictly ordered them NOT to make him known.

Why in the world did Jesus come to earth if he wanted to lower the volume of his identity and mission? Why would he intentional minimize his platform? The answer is simple. He wasn’t building a stage and a audience, he was building a people movement. And the disciple-making infrastructure was being threatened by the quick popularity.  Thus he focuses even more on the Twelve. The second catalyst is the threat of a shallow and wide ministry. 

Snapshot #3: The Weight of Life’s Brevity on Earth (Luke 6:6-11)

In Luke’s snapshot before selecting the Twelve,  we see a simple healing scene. This is where Jesus heals the man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. It’s also the first time we see the scribes Pharisees filled with fury to the point that they begin plotting what they are going to do with Jesus. This is the fountainhead of the death plot that would end Jesus’ physical opportunity on planet earth to be a disciple-maker. The next thing we see him doing is praying to the Father all night and then recruiting his core team.

The third catalyst is the recognition that you won’t be around forever.

What about you?

As you plan this year, how does Jesus disciple-making conviction, and especially these three catalysts, rescue you from a “program management” culture. Are you herding people through classes and events? Are you relying too much on  better preaching? Or do you have a robust, disciple-making strategy built around life-on-life investment, like Jesus.

Take these catalysts into your planning time:

  1. Helping people see the amazing opportunity of lost souls and recruiting them to pray for more harvest workers.
  2. Building the core with significant time investment before gathering the crowd.
  3. Being deeply aware of the finite window on earth to invest in others in light of eternity.
December 25, 2013

#7 on the Ministry Vision and Planning 2014 Countdown: 7 Practices for Keeping Jesus at the Center of Church Staff

Will Mancini's Gospel Centered Church vision and planning

Merry Christmas everyone! This post is about keeping baby Jesus in the middle of our “daily mangers” all year long.

Before my ministry path took me down the consulting road, I served as a pastor of spiritual formation. My first love, theologically speaking, is sanctification. Most of my motivation for going to seminary was to learn how to walk with God (I know, maybe not the best place to learn that). I often couldn’t wait to get my coursework done, in order to devour the “spiritual reading” of the scores of mystics and saints from centuries past.

As a guy that most people put in the “organizational box” the roots of my org-based work come from my passion for gospel-centered spiritual formation. For example, I  assert that there is no church vision that is not a discipleship vision first, and there is no discipleship vision that is not a Gospel vision first. With the recent popular emphasis on Gospel centrality, i.e, the need for “the explicit Gospel” to use Matt Chandler’s phrase, I thought it would be helpful to look at vision and planning this year through the lens of strengthening our emotional connection to the Gospel. How do we rely more substantially on Jesus and the power of His Good News as we do our planning as a church?

#1 Model more prayer time for the adoration of Jesus

How you pray reveals much. And how you pray is an act of leadership. If you are like me, prayer time can naturally drift toward pragmatic stuff of the organization or the unceasing needs of our people. Why not mark your planning time, and team gathering moments early this year with a more lavish experience of praise and exaltation of Jesus. Make sure to prepare your heart first and model this with genuine passion.

#2 Identity and take responsibility for the organizational-cultural idols within your church

It’s easily to rely on ourselves when it comes to “feeling good about church” and being satisfied with our job performance. In each culture there are unique expressions of what the leaders may rely on. For example:

  • Creativity and recent attendance momentum
  • Flagship standing in the denomination
  • Hitting  a point of financial sustainability as a young church
  • Success of a new service or program or campus
  • Your prior reputation at a previous church
  • Financial security as a church

What are you tempted to add to the Gospel in order to make your church work? What could you be trying to substitute for the Gospel as the functional driver of life-change? Please be assured that there is some answer to these questions. Your opportunity as the leader is to identify them, take responsibility for your role in sustaining them and then encouraging personal and group repentance.

#3 Repent more often and more visibly as a leader with your leaders

This is a tricky one as many leaders have no category for this kind of leadership. It is very freeing once you give it a try. Simply put, you want to find opportunities, at the appropriate “levels” and places to reveal your struggles as a leader and confess your sins as a human being. Remember its not about you or even your leadership- its about the Gospel. One obstacle to taking the Gospel more seriously is taking ourselves too seriously. And the Gospel will have no life and vitality in the organization if the leadership is not letting it expose and restore and give hope amidst the daily grind.

#4 Recalibrate your leadership language

Whatever we love will show itself through the sophistication of our language. I love to mountain bike and I love to fish for smallmouth bass in rivers. I would be glad to unpack the vocabulary of cadence, 29″ wheels or head tube angles. I can go all day talking about Rapala and Tiny Torpedo lures, 6-poind test or  the pound-for-pound thrill of landing a fish after a topwater hit.

So how is your Gospel fluency? More importantly how do practice using gospel images and phrases each day? How often do you make the Gospel explicit? Here is a powerful reference called “Atonement Grammars” from Tim Keller to get you started. Here is a free book summary from our SUMS tool for Keller’s Center Church. 

#5 Cultivate urgency

Where the Gospel is clear and strong, urgency will be felt. How can you call your staff or volunteer leaders to respond? How can you mark planning retreats or staff meetings not only with hope but with a sense courage? For example, instead of just talking about a partnership with a local ministry, why not go there, pray for them and give to them and THEN discuss a potential partnership with your staff. As the leader you can create and model a Gospel-centered bias for action.

#6 Invite new accountability

I am amazed and encouraged by the common thread of interest in Gospel-centrality among staff throughout the country. Why not find a buddy to check in with once a month for ideas and encouragement? I bet everyone reading this post has a friend or two at another church or ministry who would enjoy a twelve-month partnership to this end.

 #7 Read together as leaders

This year you may want to allocate more time to reading through the gospels. The YouVersion Bible App has a reading plan for this.  A great recent book to use (that actually discusses gospel-centered culture in church) is Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler, Eric Geiger and Josh Patterson. Here is a link to some free tools our SUMS free book summary.