Bible School
Note: I've posted this memo a couple times, but it's been quite a while. It also fits in so nicely with this month's theme of local church ministry, that I couldn't resist sharing it again. Feel free to pass this on to your pastor and other church leaders. Thanks!

It has been said that there are two kinds of pastors in the world: pastors who manage, and pastors who lead. The difference can be summarized this way: Pastors who "manage" focus on maintaining the status quo. Pastors who "lead" focus on bringing about change. While there is a place for both, in a world of constant change--pastors who can lead their congregations to boldly embrace and make the most of changing circumstances and opportunities are the more urgently needed. They are also more rare.

This morning I'd like to suggest four simple keys to leading your church to become a more mission-centered church. If you are not a pastor or church leader, feel free to pass this on to them. But recognize that you can apply these same principles to whatever ministry you are involved with. And if you are not involved in some ministry, that would be the first step in bringing about change. Get involved!

Here are our four keys:

1) Set a priority for the year.

Like most churches, the church I pastored had a clear mission statement related to the Great Commission, and a clear vision or strategy for how to get there. But we also adopted a special theme or goal each year and announced it early on. One year, for example, our theme was Strong in Christ, and our priority was strengthening the ministries of our church to more closely follow Christ's method. In other years we have focused on sacrifice, personal discipleship, and revival.

As a leader, it is your responsibility to spend time alone with God. Prayerfully discern the most needed area of growth, and then clearly articulate it. If you are in tune with God in this process, He will bless your efforts to carrying out what is in fact, His priority.

2) Choose one key metric.

I'm not a huge fan of setting arbitrary goals. We focus on faithfulness, and leave the results with God. But an important part of faithfulness is carefully tracking results, and learning what does and does not work.

In terms of your key goal, find some metric you can use to assess progress. And then monitor that number throughout the year. It can be worship attendance, baptisms, recurrent givers, size of youth group, or whatever. Just make sure you have some metric directly connected to your primary goal for the year. And then determine to nudge it up.

In my church, we put together a checklist of seven essential ministry components, and worked to provide encouragement and support to new and existing ministries to help them build any missing components into their plans. It's wasn't exactly a single number, but it's was easy enough to track. And it helped focus our efforts on one thing.

3) Strengthen communication.

Find ways to improve communication in your church. Start a weekly email to the church. Or perhaps a series of monthly bulletin inserts. Do a better job promoting and using social media. Send out links to helpful articles or videos. Discuss progress in board meetings and in personal conversations. Be articulate and repetitive in communicating your key goal for the year.

In my experience, most churches cannot focus well on more than one thing at a time. And your message won't register with most people until they have heard it at least a dozen times. We may get tired of saying it, but most likely, they still haven't heard it enough. Stay on point through the entire year.

Early on, we made an effort to build an online directory and update the contact information for our entire church. Since then, we have built additional software tools to enhance our internal communication. Figure out what the next step is for you to strengthen communication in your church.

4) Invest in key leaders.

Lastly, remember that your goal will only go as far as the buy-in of your key leaders. And more often than not, their buy-in will be proportional to the quality of your relationship with them. It's the time spent informally with the key leaders in your church that largely determines what happens in more formal settings like board meetings and committees.

Think in terms of trust. The better your relationships, the more harmonious and united your change will be. When people trust each other, change is easy. But when relationships are weak, trust is hard--and there are always obstacles, challenges, and resistance.

Remember, for real change to work--it has to involve other people. A leader may cast the vision, but those working with him or her will do most of the implementation. So make sure you invest time in the people who are looking to you to lead them.


Does your church set an annual theme or priority? What is it? What numbers are you tracking? What methods have been most helpful in communicating church priorities? Share a thought or two in the comments below.

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Posted by Dan Vis on 08/31/21 - Coach
I certainly wasn't thinking about the family, but looking back over the article, it can certainly be applied. Thanks for highlighting that Violeta! That really helps make this article even more applicable to even more people.
Posted by Vio on 08/28/21
All of these points work even in as small of a "ministry" as a family. Wonderful!
Posted by Dan Vis on 08/11/21 - Coach
It definitely sounds like you have the right skills for this Valerie, now you just need to find the right team. Start small with what you can do yourself, and then as it grows, you can be sure God will supply workers to help.

I really appreciated your comment about the importance of sharing leadership as key to others growing and developing. When our focus is multiplication, everything becomes about how to best help those we train. Great post!
Posted by Valerie Wise Burrell on 08/11/21 - Coach
Investing in key leadership is vital to implementing an enduring and effective church plan.
I had to remember how I fostered a team atmosphere in a former business that I owned. My staff was loyal to me and my vision. And as you mentioned, the better the relationships were, the more smoothly things ran.   I need to be reminded that what I did then can be done now as I develop a solo ministry. Others can catch the vision and together we can build a program that reaches the community.

The point about development of leaders is a key value I have. It is important to promote an atmosphere of shared responsibility so that others can grow, develop, and participate in the larger vision of soul winning.
Posted by Dan Vis on 08/09/21 - Coach
Sounds like your church is trying to set some direction Abel Munyarubega. That's good! :)
Posted by Abel Munyarubega on 08/09/21
My Church sets an annual theme.
Missionary oriented
Church grorth
Posted by Dan Vis on 07/15/18 - Coach
Ok, just checking. :)
Posted by Joyce Augustinis on 07/14/18
Dan I didn't see the discussion on Vessels of Honor until I had posted it here, but I will re-post it in the vessels discussion since it goes along those lines.
Posted by Dan Vis on 07/14/18 - Coach
Nice quote Joyce. Was this supposed to be posted in our II Timothy class? :)
Posted by Joyce Augustinis on 07/10/18
"Do you shine as living stones in God's building? ... We have not the genuine religion, unless it exerts a controlling influence upon us in every business transaction. We should have practical godliness to weave into our lifework. We should have the transforming grace of Christ upon our hearts. We need a great deal less of self, and more of Jesus...." from Signs of the Times. This quote brought my thoughts back to the verses in II Timothy 2:20-2120 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. 21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work. about being vessels of honor.
Posted by Dan Vis on 07/10/18 - Coach
I'm sure the Lord will give you plenty of your own ideas Joyce, if you give it some thought! :)
Posted by Joyce Augustinis on 07/10/18
Thanks Dan Those are some good ideas. I will work on it.
Posted by Dan Vis on 07/10/18 - Coach
These principles can be used in many departments Joyce. If you had a regular class you could do something similar--maybe set a quarterly goal, determine some metric connected to that goal, do a newsletter, maybe work with a few key leaders in the class to promote your goal, etc.

These principles work for most ministries with a little adaptation. Glad you found it helpful and thanks for sharing with your pastor!
Posted by Joyce Augustinis on 07/10/18
Dan Thank you for this lesson. I am not a leader but i can use these principles in the people that I teach lessons to and when i teach in SSchool. I'm going to make a plan to re-read this each time i teach (once a month) I will also give a copy of this to my pastor and pray that it will be a benefit to him also.
Posted by Dan Vis on 07/09/18 - Coach
That's a great theme Monica. I'd be curious to know how your church is implementing that practically? Is the focus foreign missions? Then one metric might be your mission offerings--trying to increase that each quarter for example. Of course if it is local missions, it could be the number of local outreach ministries your church runs. Or perhaps the amount of contacts your various ministries generate for your interest database. Without a good metric, the theme often has less impact.

Also, sounds like good communications in your church. I'm wondering how your church is harnessing them to promote missions? Unless there is constant repetition of the theme people will forget and the communication will just degenerate to weekly announcements, etc. That's important of course, but won't move the needle on your theme.

Thanks for sharing! I'm sure examples like this help to get people thinking about possibilities. :)
Posted by Monica on 07/09/18
Our theme this year is Missions.
The great commission to go and make disciples.
Am not sure we have any means of tracking.
Notice board and Sunday newsletter and emails.
Posted by Dan Vis on 02/02/18 - Coach
You are more than welcome John! Feel free to forward this blog on to your pastor. :)
Posted by John on 01/30/18
Thanks Dan for sharing, I pray and hope that all Pastor have these 4 simple key in ministering God's Church.
Posted by Emmanuel Ajiroghene on 01/05/18
This article is very effective, I look forward to set goals for my ministry and have a stated vision or pan to achieve my goals. Thank you everyone for your contributions.
Posted by Dan Vis on 08/04/17 - Coach
Glad you found this helpful, Liza. And exited to hear that your church is definitely looking forward. I trust God will give you and the other leaders in your church great ideas. Please feel free to share this article with your team. :)
Posted by Liza on 08/04/17
I don't think our church has done #1 during my time there, #2 is usually more than one focus which I guess leads to no focus long term, lots of #3 but could be more effective somehow, #4 needs much improvement. Lots to think about and commit to prayer. All very practical and will help with the process. Thank you again Dan!
Posted by Liza on 08/04/17
This is very helpful. We're in transition right now but looking forward, each step is helpful. Will be thinking about how this can be implemented this year.
Posted by Dan Vis on 07/30/17 - Coach
Sue, there are different ways to do metrics. One is a survey of some sort. Another is just to track how many people engage in some program, or compare enrollment from one year to the next. Another option might be to do a feedback or evaluation form at the end of a challenge to see if there was any improvement in their prayer life. You could then tabulate and assess the impact of the challenge that way.

Without some metric, it is difficult to ensure we are moving forward. I'm sure you will think of something...
Posted by Sue Gilmore on 07/28/17
Sorry for the type--typed the previous comment without wearing my glasses. LOL! I meant 'presently following a prayer challenge..."
Posted by Sue Gilmore on 07/28/17
I wasn't thinking of a survey. I think that would turn some people off. But perhaps a Prayer Challenge that would get the church working toward. I've read of some churches reading through the Bible for one kind of goal. That's a huge one. Perhaps starting with a smaller, more reachable, one like reading through the book of Matthew or the Psalms? I am presenting following a prayer challenge online on promises for peace. Maybe a 13 week challenge based on claiming God's promises might be a good start.
Posted by Dan Vis on 07/28/17 - Coach
Some great thoughts, Sue. So glad you had an opportunity to serve in an affirming environment like that. Maybe now you can find ways to affirm others in your church now and help to reproduce that environment again, for others.

I also really like some of the numbers you recommended measuring. Doing a some kind of survey to find how many of our members prayer or study, and then repeating that once a quarter to see if we can't make progress is a great idea. Or doing a memory challenge where we track how many verses are memorized. Tithe numbers proportional to attendance is actually a great number too, as it is one of the best indicators of spiritual health. We track the percentage of our church that has completed discipleship training, and the percentage that have trained others. People tend to value what you measure--so it's important to find new ways to measure success.

David, absolutely right! Our current measurement is all about encouraging each ministry to develop missing components, but it doesn't tell each ministry how, or even what kinds of new ministries are needed. We definitely have to let God lead, and trust Him to move on member's hearts to build the ministries that He knows are most needed.

A pastor should provide vision and leadership, but more to motivate and inspire and less to dictate and micromanage. Thanks for your great comment!
Posted by David Guerrero on 07/27/17
This is all great information. Let me add that churches today need to be empowered. Often times Pastor dominated churches cripple the life and ministry of the church. The gifts of the members must be developed, discovered and unleashed so that the can operate under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and supported by the body of Christ.
Posted by Sue Gilmore on 07/27/17
I think there should be more than a goal for evangelism. A church grows by more than numbers, doesn't it? I think of how attendance in Sabbath School is often much lower than church attendance? What does this reveal about a congregation? Maybe there should be goals in terms of Bible Study and other discipleship basics? To help nurture the faith and growth of God's people? If our walk is stronger, our witness will be too. Just a thought.
Posted by Sue Gilmore on 07/27/17
I wholeheartedly agree that communication is key. We have bulletin announcements but these are not necessarily tied to a goal. And the ball is often dropped so that most church members have no idea of what some key leaders are planning. I don't often know, even though I'm on the church board. I think a newsletter is a great idea!

I like the idea of investing in leaders. When I was a member of the East Lansing church, I was pleasantly surprised when the church gave a $100 gift to each of the SS leaders teaching in the children's ministries. I have been a SS leader ever since I joined the Adventist church and have never received this kind of support. Support was also verbal, expressing affirmation from the pastor, asst pastor, their wives, elders and church members. There was a climate of support. You can imagine how that support energized us to do our very best for God and His children!
Posted by Colette Guthrie on 07/25/17 - Coach
Thanks Dan!
Posted by Dan Vis on 07/25/17 - Coach
Hi Randy! Great to see you here. Sounds like you have a great process in place with your elders. I admire your commitment to that!

Ours only meet about once a month, usually the Sunday before the church board meeting. But I have spent a lot of time doing advanced training courses with invitation only groups (including some elders and some non-elders). We would meet every other Sunday for a couple hours and do some serious study on discipling, church management, leadership, etc. This would run about 9 months. Then during the summer I would do an intensive evangelism school with those members who want to learn more about Bible work/ministry and could attend. It was full time for 6-8 weeks. I continue to meet with our Bible worker team once every week or two for a couple hours and we do a lot of sharing and counseling together. They are pretty much running our church plant now on their own.

I should add, this is all in addition to our basic discipleship track which we run every year. It's a nine month course and so far we have well over 60 graduates, more than a quarter of which have done a second year as a trainer. I led the first group, but graduates have led out every year since. We do this class during the lesson study time on Sabbath morning. Finding time is always such a challenge, isn't it?

I always feel there is so much more I would like to do, especially personal one on one time, but any time you can invest is good. I'm sure your weekly interactions are a great blessing to them (and you).

Colette, let me know if you need help figuring out how to setup the database in your training center tools. It's quite powerful, but as always there's a learning curve.

Qing, those two words are pretty big, aren't they? Happenstance and intentional. :) I always love the things you seem to pick out...
Posted by Colette Guthrie on 07/25/17 - Coach
Qing thanks for that. I have registered my church as a training centre but we haven't gotten around to making use of the facility as yet.
Posted by Qing Ling on 07/25/17 - Coach
Thanks for feedback, Dan . That word "happenstance" really describes the opposite of what I hope for our church- "intentional" being the ideal.

Love what you shared, Randy - something I'll be encouraging my church to work towards:)

Colette, I know FAST Training Center has a function for tracking church member information..and there are some cool apps out there that deal with church member databases. My church is in the early stages of using Planning Centre. Members can update their own information when it's a database in the "cloud" :)
Posted by Colette Guthrie on 07/24/17 - Coach
The point about not going it alone reminds me of the text below.

Proverbs 18:1-21 Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom. 2 A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself. (NIV)

18 An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends
    and against all sound judgment starts quarrels.
2 Fools find no pleasure in understanding
    but delight in airing their own opinions.

I want to see the members ro'lll and database in my church updated. Need our Sabbath School Secretary to buy in. Gonna pray.
Posted by Randy Maxwell on 07/24/17
Hi Dan. Could you be even more specific about investing in key leaders. Could you provide concrete examples of how you do this? With our elders, I've implemented a weekly staff call every Monday at 7 pm. The elders call in to my cell phone, I conference them together, and we review church life, upcoming events, ministry opportunities, and debrief the previous Sabbath's service. We pray together and this keeps us connected. Our elders all have families and work in the city. Coordinating a time for us all to meet face-to-face on even a monthly basis is challenging. The conference call keeps us in touch with other, and doesn't allow for too much time to pass on key issues/events in the church.

We do have a theme for the year, and in addition to printing the newly voted purpose/vision statement in the bulletin, we've stenciled it on the lobby walls so that visitors and members see it upon entering and leaving the building. We continue to look for more and better ways of communicating our vision as well as what we are doing to implement it.
Posted by Dan Vis on 07/24/17 - Coach
I kind of think it's the other way around Qing. That is, the reason we have problems with #1-3 is that we haven't been doing #4 very well for a good long while. It's because we haven't been properly investing in leaders, that we often see weak leadership in churches. If we would invested more in leaders, the other things would be fixed.

And yes, you are right--there is often a measure of investment going on. And maybe, it is even in a good direction. We're just not usually intentional and systematic about it. Or as you put it, we don't have a clear goal we're steering towards. As a result, our leadership development is kind of happenstance.

But we're all learning together for sure. The more we share and help one another, the richer we'll all be...
Posted by Qing Ling on 07/24/17 - Coach
Baby steps, Dan ... maybe #4 gets neglected most because we've not managed to wrap our heads around #2 and #3 yet! ;) thanks for highlighting #4 ...I think sometimes there could be a good deal of investment going on, but it's the direction/type of the investment that maybe needs some steering towards a clear goal..if that makes sense?
Posted by Dan Vis on 07/24/17 - Coach
John, a three year review of your plan (vision), is a good frequency. But even within that it can be broken down into annual segments. Milestones. Targets. Evangelism is of course the overriding mission your conference has identified. Sounds like you guys are on a good track.

Qing, sounds like your church is also doing well. Having a key metric (#2) each year is a big one. In fact, it may be the biggest key to ongoing progress.

Of course, investing in key leaders (#4) is probably the most neglected of the four. Don't you think? And yet in terms of making disciples, its also the most central to our mission...
Posted by Qing Ling on 07/24/17 - Coach
While we have an annual theme, and a mission statement that was formed by the church body as a team, I believe we could improve in communicating it more frequently and in such a way that it has a real impact on our church life/activities (including impacting the spiritual life of our members). I'm interested to look further into keys #2 & #3 for my church.
Posted by John Gilmore on 07/24/17
Here in Michigan, each church is urged by the conference to develop and send in a 3-year plan for evangelism. And every ministry has opportunity to report to the board monthly. But an annual theme is a new idea.

Communication of priorities? As in other churches I've attended, we do bulletin inserts, announcements at the beginning of church, and board meetings. We also have an evangelism emphasis time for the personal ministries department close to the middle of the church service.
Posted by Judy Jennings on 07/03/17
Thank you for sharing. We are working toward TMI (Total Member Involvement) and appreciate the review of these four keys - I especially like the idea of the theme for the year - Strong in Christ which I will be sharing with our PM team this week.
Posted by William on 06/13/17
Thank you for those thoughts. Appreciate greatly.
Posted by Dan Vis on 02/09/17 - Coach
Good point Lionel. Trying to change leaders because we haven't figured out how to work with them is not going to increase our ability to work with new leaders. Change may be necessary at times, but often what really needs to change is us. :)
Posted by Lionel on 02/08/17
I'm a bit late reading this post.
I am praying for Maricel and Maricel's pastor. In my seminar on healing conflict in churches ( I make the following statement (and include it in printed form on the handouts): "In order to have the best possible pastoral team for your church (pastor/s & Elder/s), pray for those that you already have!"
Posted by Dan Vis on 01/26/17 - Coach
Hi Robin, glad these points were helpful. And thanks esp for passing this post along to others.
Posted by Robin David Richard on 01/26/17
Thanks Dan. Simple and percise key points that will have great results with prayer and a determined effort and will.
By the grace of God I do hold a leadership position within the local flock where I assemble and I can use these key points in my endeavors and I will be sure to pass this along to the other leaders as well.
Posted by Dan Vis on 01/24/17 - Coach
Great Joyce! Glad you could see ways to implement these principles in your family. :)
Posted by Joyce Augustinis on 01/24/17
I am not a leader, but these suggestions are something I can apply to my own life and I can plan to put into practice in my family.
Posted by Dan Vis on 01/23/17 - Coach
Glad these suggestions could be a blessing to each of you. Even if we do not feel our pastor is leading as well as we would like, we can still use these principles in our own ministry. The more involved we become, the greater will be our ability to encourage other church leaders.
Posted by Clara Peredo on 01/23/17
I am a child of God who desires soul to be ready for the Kingdom of God. My Pastor is getting us ready for Pentecost. He has members going on missions. He is showing us how to go out and reach one. I have been giving out bible lessons to five individuals. There is one of the student who is loving the lessons. If I miss one Sabbath I am counseled the next sabbath. We are approaching week of prayer and will invite her.please pray for Dolly.
Posted by Maricel on 01/23/17
I rarely see a real "pastor" nowadays. Someone who is humble, true and serious about their calling. It seems like it's becoming a "pay check" just like an ordinary job. Come to church late, can't teach a sabbath school lesson, preach a hard out sermon about himself and egotistical. I'm not generalising. This is my experience with my pastor. frustrating as it may sound but my spiritual journey is not dependendent upon him. I just felt sad that he is in the position where He could be an agent for Gods work and to prepare the end time people. I prayed for him and for this I'm in need of your prayers.
Posted by Lisette Morgan on 01/23/17
I have emailed this to our Pastor, please pray for him.
Posted by Karen I Woodall on 01/23/17
I am a leader at church with Pastors Aid and Missions and I see many things I can use to strengthen our groups and church. I will gladly pass this on to my Pastor.
Posted by Darci Ziegler on 01/23/17
I am the leader of my school. Well there are only 2 students in my homeschool but still I am the leader. This article has some principles I believe I can apply.

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