Ministry in Hard Times

I recently led a dialogue of church leaders on this subject. A lot of churches really suffered financially in 2011. It seems the long term effects of the recession are still being felt (and will be for some time to come). The reality for most churches is that circumstances will never return to the way they were in the “good old days”.

To prepare for the discussion, I read “Ministry in Hard Times” by Bill Easum and Bill Tenny-Brittian  I always love Easum’s writing. He doesn’t pull any punches. What I like about this particular book is the focus on investing in those ministries that will grow our churches. All too often, our reaction in hard times is only to cut back spending. That never strengthens the church. Their prescription is to make the necessary cuts early enough in the crisis to be able to refocus some of that spending on the areas they believe should always be increased during hard times.

Their list of “Always Increase” items include: Worship, Children’s Ministry, Evangelism, Marketing, Continuing Education, Volunteer Ministries, Small Groups, and Spiritual Formation.

They call for investing more on building up leaders within the church who can, on a voluntary basis, do a lot of ministry that the church has been paying staff to do.

I always come back to Jim Collins’ “hedgehog concept”. Here is my paraphrase: We need to focus on what we are passionate about, that we can do well, and that can grow our church.  Hard times will force us to cut out a lot of fluff, and a lot of ineffective ministries that don’t fit those three simple criteria. The good news is that the church of Jesus Christ has survived a lot worse.



Our theme for this year in the Peninsula Baptist Association is “Life on Life” or LOL (not original to me). God has put it into my head as I visit from church to church that many churches are dying because somewhere along the line they stopped training up a new generation of leaders. Of course, the verse I have chosen to accompany this theme is 2 Timothy 2.2. In that verse, Paul encourages his young protege to take what he has learned from Paul and pass it on to reliable people who will in turn pass it on to others.

I firmly believe that the church that takes this approach to leadership development will continue to renew itself indefinitely. The reasons that many churches don’t have any young people are many and complex. But one of the biggest reason is that the church chose not to do anything with the young people when they had them. Oh, they baby sat them, entertained them, preached at them and basically bored them to death. But the leaders failed to take these young people one on one and coach them into leadership roles in the church – and them give them the reins of leadership.The church leaders weren’t willing to let go of the authority or take a risk on a young leader. And now, they look around and the young people are gone.

I learned a long time ago that the best way I can multiply my leadership is to spend real time one on one coaching potential leaders. It is the most important (and most fun) thing I do in ministry. I plan to offer opportunities throughout this year for our people to learn skills in coaching, mentoring, apprenticing, etc. I will be bringing in outsiders as well as providing training myself. It is going to be a great year!


Does your Church have a Logo?


Here is a list of 77 top logos as suggested by Church Relevance

Do such things as logos really matter for churches? The way you answer that question will probably be more driven by the type of learner you are than by your theology. Visual learners are drawn to symbols and metaphors that illustrate meaning. Being a visual learner myself, I am attracted to such things. So, I would say “Yes, logos matter!”

Our new logo at the Peninsula Baptist Association was designed by Josh Barnett, a sharp young graphics designer. We worked back and forth for several months until it had the look and feel we were going for. Our website is currently down as we incorporate our new look and feel. Hopefully, by the time you read this it will be back up at If it isn’t up, you can get a sneak peek at

We are all about being a Network of Churches, Equipping Churches for Kingdom Ministry. That had to be evident in this banner that we use for our newsletter and our website.

Here are a couple of good questions for you:

1. If your church currently has a logo – does that logo adequately communicate who you are and what you do?

2. If your church doesn’t have a logo – what image or metaphor would easily communicate who you are and what you do?

I was once in a conversation with a young church planter who was still in the dreaming phase. I asked him if his church had a name yet. He said, “No, but we have a symbol.” He proceeded to show me the symbol that would capture the mission of this new church.

In a media driven, image rich world – having a way to visibly communicate your identity is important.  Even the little things such as color, choice of font and background can communicate a feeling, an idea, or an identity.

For more info about “branding” your church, check out Scott Vaughan . Like his page and get access to his “vault” with articles on branding and communication.  His “Brand Development Worksheet” is particularly helpful.