The 5 Traits of Churches That Will Impact the Future

This week I am blogging from #OC14, The Orange Conference in Atlanta. Orange is a gathering of thousands of church leaders, with an emphasis on senior leadership, children’s ministry leadership and student ministry leadership. I am highlighting some of the best material from the Orange senior leadership track. Below are the highlights from Carey Nieuwhof’s excellent session on the future of church.

What was the first piece of music you ever purchased? Perhaps it was on vinyl, cassette, CD or digital. We all love music, but the format we buy it on changes over time.

If you are a music industry executive, you’re challenged. While music remains the same, the technology behind delievering music changes quickly.

For churches, God’s message doesn’t change. However, our method of bringing the message to our communities must change with the times.

“Change is not an option, but how you respond to it is.” – Reggie Joiner

“In order to reach people no one else is reaching, you have to do things that nobody else is doing.” – Craig Groeschel

These are the qualities churches should have if they want to reach people in the future:

#1. Commit to the message, but be flexible with the method. Successful future churches will clearly distinguish between mission, vision and stragegy. Remember, it’s not a message question, but a method question.

Evaluate regularly. Pastors spend all their time preparing and no time evaluating. The congregation does the opposite. We should spend more time evaluating and listening to the feedback people are giving us. Be willing to be flexible on your method (change it), even if it’s a method you introduced.

#2. Give people a place to belong before they believe. Churches tend to interview visitors to see if their positions are similar to the church’s positions. This is starting with theology and not with ministry. To reach unchurched people, start first with ministry and not with theology. This was Jesus’ model.

You should allow people to belong to your church community even before they believe in God. Those who belong often begin to believe. They then become someone new because they belong and believe.

3. Value online relationships as real relationships. The vast majority of people won’t consider coming to your church building to be part of a weekend service. However, most people are online. If you are serious about reaching people for Jesus, you need to embrace online ministry. Some tips:

> Actually connect with social media. Your updates should not simply be self-promotional in nature. People tune them out. Solicit comments and ideas. Respond to people and their requests. Be actively involved in social media.

> Create local, helpful content for your city and optimize that content for search engines. For example, Nieuwhof’s church bought the URL for the name of their city and “Christmas.” Lots of people go looking for local Christmas experiences. When they search online, they find the speciality web site started by Nieuwhof’s church.

> Use multiple channels. Not everybody in your community is using every form of social media. As such, your church should be everywhere on social media. Nieuwhof’s church spends its energy on four social media venues; Facebook (everyone in the congregation has it), Twitter (used by many local community leaders), Pinterest (to reach an army of moms) and Instagram (favored by people under 30).

4. Embrace quicker, lighter and smaller footprints. The speed of church growth is impacted by the speed of decision-making. Quicker decisions are necessary. If you can’t make a major church decision in 24 hours, you’re too slow.

Lower cost venues promote growth. Constructing traditional church buildings is expensive and slow. Renting schools and sharing space with exisiting churches is far more efficient. As soon as one venue reaches capacity, quickly open another. In the end, a greater number of smaller venues can accomodate more people.

5. Encourage experimentation. The greatest threat to your future success is your current success. Be willing to try new things. Remember, we still don’t know exactly what future church will look like. Some ways to experiment:

> Devote 10% of your time and budget to things you’re not sure will work out.

> Reward the effort of your people, but evaluate on results.

> Don’t allow what is good to block what has the potential to be great.

Don’t be like the music industry, trying desperately to hold on to what was. Embrace the changes of today in order to win people with Jesus’ timeless message.



This information was presented at the national Orange Conference #OC14. Click here for more information on Orange.

Orange Conference 2014




How To Get The Most Out Of The Orange Conference… Or Any Professional Seminar

Do you want to supercharge your career? Consider regularly attending professional conferences. The connections and information we receive are well worth our time. Here are my tips for getting the most out conference experiences:

Prepare: Before you go, review the conference web site. Do the pre-conference reading or listen to the pre-conference podcasts. Some conferences have workshops the day before the main sessions begin. Arrive a day early and participate. Double check your travel plans to ensure you have enough time to comfortably make it where you need to be on time. Check your directions so you won’t be lost and frustrated. You want to be relaxed and ready to learn when you arrive. Look at the list of people attending the conference and figure out who you will be looking for.

Take notes:  Take notes in each session you attend. They are excellent to share with others and for your own reference. Offer to send your notes to people you meet at the conference as a way to further connect.

Take pictures: Grab a few shots with your phone and email them back to the office and to your family. Let everybody see what’s happening at the conference and your enthusiasm for it!

Prepare a report: When an organization spends hundreds of dollars to send you to a conference, a great way to say “thank you” is with a report. Write a brief summary sharing the main takeaways and new resources you found. Email your summary to your bosses and to anyone in the organization that might find it helpful. Mention the takeaways in your next staff meeting. Write a piece for the organization’s newsletter or blog. The more broadly you share the information you gather, the greater value it will be to the organization. This is also a great way to set yourself up to attend the conference again in the future (what boss doesn’t want to send a grateful employee who brings back information for everyone else?) Your report can also be shared on your personal social media streams to be of help to others.

Lead a session: There is a huge difference between simply attending a conference and leading one of the sessions. As a presenter you may receive discounted registration and access to “presenter only” privileges. People will see your name in the program and seek you out. You will connect with like-minded people when they ask questions immediately following your session. You don’t have to lead one of the main sessions. Simply volunteer to lead a breakout session.

Network and Connect: Make some new friends! Most information at conferences can be obtained in articles, books or on conference videos. What you can’t get anywhere else is the opportunity to meet other people. Strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you. Ask questions during panel discussions. Participate in interactive roundtables. Introduce yourself to the speakers and conference organizers. If you hit it off with someone you meet, suggest going to coffee or a meal. Everyone is in the same boat at a conference. People will be glad you took the initiative to break the ice. Exchange contact information and offer to help people any way you can. Write thank-you notes to them when you get back and follow them in social media. Send them articles, leads or other resources that could help them.

Extend your time before or after the conference: Many conferences are intentionally held in places where there is nice weather and lots of activities. See if you can extend your stay a few days (at your own cost) and enjoy the travel. Bring a spouse or a friend with you (at your own cost).

Purchase conference videos and audio sessions: Buy the audio/video recordings and show them to your staff. Even if the recordings cost a couple of hundred dollars, it is still far cheaper than what you have already paid to attend the conference in person. Individual sessions can be shared during staff meetings. You can also hold a training day, where several of the sessions are shown to staff.


The Orange Conference is where several thousand church leaders will gather to learn and connect.

Rich Birch has an excellent podcast on his unSeminary website (listen or watch here). In it he interviews notable Orange leaders Elle Campbell and Carey Nieuwhof. Here is a summary of their tips:

Tips From Elle Campbell

> Read breakout session descriptions in advance. If you have multiple people going, divide up the sessions so different people can attend different sessions.

> In advance, find out who will be there. Tweet to your followers and ask who is attending so you can make connections during the event.

> Bring orange clothing.

> Bring business cards or fliers. Do promotional giveaways from a backpack.

> Bring your electronics and don’t forget the chargers.

> Follow conference and #ThinkOrange hash tags on Twitter.

> Follow Orange bloggers on the OrangeLeaders website (list of bloggers here).

Tips From Carey Nieuwhof

> Stay for the weekend to attend Andy Stanley’s North Point Community Church.

> Hold a team debrief dinner following the conference.

> Write a report. Share your report on Google Docs so everyone can benefit from your learning. Taking notes in Evernote can help with this.

> Many times people at conferences are from your tribe. Meet new people. Look at name tags. Look for clues as to like-mindedness.

> For social media during the conference, make sure you have a good internet connection (preferably cellular data, because public WIFI can be a problem).

> Live streaming information will be available at and

What is your best advice for getting the most out of conferences? Leave a comment below.



Top 10 Leadership Quotes From The #CLA14 Conference

This year’s Christian Leadership Alliance national conference was held in Dallas. Here are the top ten leadership quotes (from the #CLA14 Twitter feed):

#10: “Fear and courage are both incredibly contagious.” –  Dan Bolin  Via @nancyreece

#9: “There will be no harvest if you never planted and watered.” Via @liferesourcesnm

#8: “One of the greatest threats to a leader’s long term credibility is fruitfulness without purity.” – @ohfamily Via @larrydholland7

#7: “Metrics bring focus.”  -John Reynolds Via @chadw5q

#6: “The greatest threat to your ministry is you.” – Michael Oh Via @claleader

#5: “If you don’t have a clear sense of calling, it will be impossible to stay in the game when it gets tough.” – Laura Clancy Via @juilie_pierce

#4: “Build bridges of relationship that can bear the weight of truth.” – @TimElmore Via @stankeithhc

#3: “Leadership has less to do with position and more to do with disposition.” – @timelmore Via @amalphurs

#2: “Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone else’s inability to see your worth.” Via @Toddadkins

#1: “The more resources we have, the less resourceful we tend to become.” – @TimElmore Via @ToddAdkins


#6: “Does your program REALLY do X, or is that just the story you tell yourself?” – Beverly Upton Via @mbaxmif

#5: “Sabbath, solitude, silence are three important disciples to enhance your leadership.” – @JeddMedefind Via @chrisingr

#4: “Jesus didn’t say ‘Well done good and high performing servant’. He addressed character. Be faithful and finish strong.” -@Kenny_Luck Via @mbaxmif

#3: “God loves us just the way we are but loves us too much to leave us that way.” Via @liferesourcesnm

#2: “Sometimes we shrink from leadership because our pride makes us afraid of failure. That’s not humility.” – Francis Chan Via @kmhamilton

#1: “Connect before you correct.”  – @TimElmore Via @susielipps

What are your favorite leadership quotes? Leave a message below.



Why Next Generation Leaders Want To Do Business AND Do Good

What’s different about the newest generation of leaders? There are meaningful distinctions in how they communicate, view social issues, demand authenticity, use social media, and look at the workplace. But there is no difference quite as pronounced as the desire to both do business and do good.


Dr. Thomas Fitzpatrick

Dr. Thomas Fitzpatrick CuraCoffee Founder

Recently I had the good fortune of meeting Thomas Fitzpatrick and his wife Tara. Thomas is an emerging leader in San Diego and a dentist. In addition to running two successful dental clinics, he volunteers his to help people in Nicaragua. He regularly travels along with other doctors there to give away his services to people in need.

One year his volunteer clinic was set up at a Nicaraguan coffee plantation. Thomas noticed the high quality of the coffee there. Then the idea struck him. . . why not import the coffee to San Diego and sell it, then use the profits to fund free dental clinics in Nicaragua?  Why not?



Well that’s just what Thomas did. He established CuraCoffee, a company to benefit the dental charity (inspired by the TOMS Shoes business model). He established a shipping relationship with another San Diego coffee house (that was already shipping coffee from Nicaragua and had extra container space). Everybody wins. The Nicaraguan farmers get a fair trade deal on their coffee beans. San Diego gets a great source for premium coffee. Volunteer dentists get funds for supplies so they can help people. Nicaraguans get their teeth fixed.


Thomas and Tara could have simply lived the California dream of professional success. But they didn’t stop there. They looked around and asked how they could make things better. They are making a difference using their desire to change the world AND their business skills. Our future is brighter because of the thinking of emerging leaders like Thomas and Tara.

CuraCoffeeWho else is doing great things for the world using a business model? Leave a comment below.


Photos courtesy CuraCoffee and Thomas Fitzpatrick


Top 10 Leadership Quotes From Catalyst West 2014

The Catalyst West conference is a training experience for the next generation of leaders. It was held in Southern California during the first week of April. Here are my top 10 leadership quotes from the conference (taken from #Catalyst on Twitter):

10. “Biggest obstacle to learning is thinking you already know.” – @mikeerre (via @RobJacobs_)

9. “Be the leader you wish you had.” – @simonsinek (via @dccowan)

8. “Innovation is the clarity to see a problem and the skill to design a solution to that problem.” – @charlestlee (via @pdaarnold)

7. “Anchor your story in hope — not hurt or hype — but HOPE.” ~ @MikeFoster (via @ansonsexton)

6. “To keep talented people engaged, focus discussions of culture and innovation, less on growth and values.” – Charles Lee (via @stustreeter)

5. “Create a safe environment for disagreement.” – @trippcrosby (via @hinscheman)

4. “You can be comfortable OR courageous, but you can’t be both.” – @MikeFoster (via @RobJacobs_)

3. “If everything is important, nothing is.” – @DrHenryCloud (via @chuck_franklin)

2. “Stop telling people how far they have left to go. Instead tell them how far they’ve come.” – @bobgoff (via @ToddAdkins)

1. “The only way to lead a symphony is to turn your back to the crowd and the critics.” – @annvoskamp (via @LindseyNobles)


8. “Talking about your idea can trick you into thinking you are doing it.” – @charlestlee (via @toddadkins)

7. “Leadership is not about what you do or what you know, it’s leading out of who you are.” – @DailyFrancis (via @toddadkins)

6. “There’s no short cut to quality.” – @charlestlee (via @catbackstage)

5. “#1. Think big. #2. Start small. #3. Keep moving.” – @charlestlee (via @ksc)

4. “A gift can destroy a leader if their character has not yet developed before they were launched into the spotlight.” – @christinecaine (via haleyveturis)

3. “A poor leader yells. A leader tells. A good leader listens. A Servant Leader understands.” – #Catalyst (via @robjacobs)

2. “Many of us are missing what God already has in front of us because we are looking for the next big thing.” – @ChristineCaine (via @haleyveturis)

1, “Comparison is cancer to contentment.” – #Catalyst (via @joshshipp)

What are your favorite quotes? Leave a message below.