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How To Mentor & Build Devoted Youth Leaders: Youth Discipleship

In part 1 of this series, we talked about teaching young leaders. The most important parts of teaching any leader, regardless of their age, are having a curriculum to study and having opportunities to put their new knowledge to use.

In part 2, we are going to examine the methods of both by framing them in two ways: Engaging their minds and engaging their hearts. By the end of this article, you will be able to identify leaders using the techniques you learned in part 1 and then successfully mentor them using the youth discipleship techniques you are about to learn.

I’ll cover:

Young Minds Are Hungry Minds

Young people have growing brains. As they grow, they retain knowledge more easily than after growing stops. This study shows that teen brains are wired differently from adult brains. Specifically, they seek situations that give them rewards for their actions.

As teens find their most rewarding actions, the brain grows to desire that and reinforces the learning pathways. This can lead to negative effects like addictive behaviors, but positive outcomes, like finding a love for service and self-improvement, are also possible with a little guidance.

Young Minds Are Eager To Learn

The first step in teaching your youth leaders is being adaptable. Every young brain is hungry, but not everyone knows how to focus that hunger into something useful. Get to know the communication styles of your leaders so that you can effectively teach.

Here is a short breakdown of the most common types of learning and the communication styles that pair well with them.

  • Visual Learning: Visual learners are best at learning through words, drawings, pictures, and videos. A sermon or lecture might go over their head, but they will be able to memorize Bible verses or written plans quickly.
  • Auditory Learning: Auditory learners are listeners. In many ways, they mirror visual learners in their strengths and weaknesses. Your sermon will be taken to heart at once, but workbook lessons might not be.
  • Emotional Learning: Emotional learners relate everything to their feelings. Their lessons should be framed through the emotional impact of the Bible stories or leadership goals.

In some ways, every lesson in your discipleship program should contain parts that speak to each type of learner. By doing that, you will model the communication styles that your leaders will need to help their peers when they complete that step of the program.

Young Minds Want To Be Challenged

Challenges, in this case, are not quizzes and tests like you would see in a classroom. Leadership is a hands-on responsibility and requires hands-on training and assessment. Leadership challenges should follow a three-step process to ensure a healthy and positive result.

  • Teach The Skill. No one is born with specialized skills. As easy as it is to ride a bike, we all must be taught how to do it first. Using the different types of communication here can make a huge difference.
  • Supervised Assessment. Allow your leader to complete a task with minimal/no intervention from you, e.g. a small group Bible study or an opening prayer. Only get involved if a safety concern or other emergency arises.
  • Evaluation. Remember the study linked above? Teen minds are reward-seeking. Praise the behavior you want them to remember. Try to never use harsh language or tones. Frequently mistakes made by growing youth leaders come from ignorance which is almost always the fault of the teacher.

One important note related to the evaluation section is that all types of learners do better when you frame your thoughts as questions. As they answer the questions, they learn to self-evaluate and the lessons become even more ingrained.

Young Minds Like Solving Puzzles

Once your youth leaders have proven themselves under supervision, it is time to set goals and challenges that will allow them a little more freedom. For instance, a leader might run a Bible study on their own after running the content by you first.

Each time you send them out to complete a task, they will need to apply the skills you have taught them in sometimes new and surprising ways. Increase their ability to adapt by practicing situations where they have to improvise in order to succeed. The rewards of seeing their skills pay off and the praise from you and their peers both help to solidify the criteria that their minds seek.

Importantly, the puzzles you give them should not be unsolvable or arbitrary. Many young people come to church to get away from that type of behavior at home. You don’t plant a flower in sand then curse it when it doesn’t grow. Plant your leaders in good soil with plenty of fertilizer and sunshine.

Young Hearts Are Open Hearts

As much as youth need to be taught how to learn, they have no problem feeling. Most times, the emotions of the constant changes of adolescence overwhelm and confuse the young adults of your youth church. They can be laughing one moment and crying the next as both life and brand new hormones play with their heartstrings.

This section will guide you through navigating these emotional currents as you try to teach them the lessons and values of becoming a youth leader.

Young Hearts Are New

Young people occupy a very tumultuous phase of life. Some try to cling to childhood while others attempt to become adults too fast. Faced with an onslaught of brand-new emotions, which can vary from romantic to independent to self-reflection, some withdraw from their family and friends and others break open, wearing their heart on their sleeve.

Dealing with all of these emotions is a skill just like riding a bike. For many adults, it is easy to forget that we, once, were new to these feelings, too. If you and the young person’s parents are not teaching them how to deal with and manage these emotions, who is? Most likely their friends or their favorite celebrity.

Help your youth understand their emotions and how to deal with them in a healthy way. Doing so will give them the self-control to be confident in their decisions as leaders and as humans.

Young Hearts Are Quick

Quick to say, “I love you.” Quick to say, “I hate you.” Most of all, young people are quick to blame themselves when things go wrong. This is partly because their lack of understanding turns everything inward. As a pastor, how many children have you counseled who blamed themselves for their parents’ divorce?

Be just as quick in your positive support and embodiment of healthy emotional behaviors. If the youth pastor is quick to anger, the youth will follow. Be a better example. Be quick in analyzing situations, and they will begin to assign less blame and take more responsibility.

Even in the best cases, your leaders will only be able to learn about the risks of a quick heart by getting hurt in friendship, in love, or in teamwork. In these cases, finding a way to explain that their emotions need to be tempered by wisdom can be more than difficult, especially when you are trying to keep from sounding like it’s all their fault.

While many adults, including some I have worked with, consider this attribute of young people a weakness, I have found that it is one of their greatest strengths, as long as it is pointed in the right direction.

Young Hearts Can Be A Force

What do we do with these powerful emotions? I have mentioned providing healthy outlets a few times, and here are some examples that have worked in my experience.

Beach Cleanup.  If you show a group of teens a video of aquatic creatures in distress, they might instantly fall in love and grab the nearest cleaning supplies. We did this when I worked with the youth ministry, and after the initial cleanup, we went back several times, and even had youth asking to go to cleanup for months afterward. If you don’t live near a beach, rivers or nature preserves always need volunteers.

Soup Kitchen. If your church does not have its own soup kitchen, partner with one that does. The number of teens who came away with greater respect for those facing food insecurity was staggering. Some of them said it was life-changing.

Group Trips. We often took our leadership team into our local big city to minister at churches, perform our music, or just learn how other places would do things. One time, we got completely lost (this was before smartphones and GPS), but everyone was laughing and singing so it still built the team and provided that pressure relief.

In addition, when the adult church has their events and projects, you will have a force of young people who are trained to accomplish whatever you set in front of them. The sense of accomplishment from outmatching the adult church alone can be enough to clear away the negativity of school, peer pressure, and difficult parents.

Young Christians Can Be Very Smart

We know that individuals vary in intelligence. In aggregate, though, people are generally smart. Only one person needs to see Suzy kissing Johnny before everyone within 10 miles knows. Kids notice everything. Sure, you can fool one youth, but you will never fool a youth group.

Most youth pastors protest that statement by saying that they are not trying to fool anyone. This is not about what you are trying to do. It is about what the youth perceive you to be doing. We are going to look at the good and bad ways of handling those perceptions.

Uniting Hearts And Minds Into One Purpose

As your youth church grows, you will develop a core of youth leaders who will be able to take responsibility for different areas of the service and management just like the adult church has its deacons and elders. 

A well-run youth church works like a machine. The young hearts have had their emotions focused toward the purpose of becoming servants of God. The young minds are trained to know what that means. They see an oasis of stability in the chaos of the world, and they carry that peace with them wherever they go.

The youth pastor, as the spiritual leader of the youth, provides the directions and the stability. After all, Jesus Christ said that Simon Peter was the rock on which the church would be built. In that tradition, each individual church, even youth churches inside larger adult churches, are built upon the vision and motivation of the senior pastor.

So, a healthy and growing youth church has solid, steady leadership at the top with ever-wider groups of leaders below who work according to the vision of that leadership. 

They Know When They Are Being Overlooked

As an adult, forgetting our teenage years is sometimes too easy. It feels like adults always set you off to the side so they can do more important things. You’re too old to have recess and too young to have freedom. Everyone is always yelling at you for either being lazy or being too active.

Then you go to church on Wednesday night, and they put you in a room in the back so the adults can have “real church” while you sit in your group and listen to an adult tell you about how Jesus loves the little children.

As harsh as that sounds, that is why a church of 2000 members had 50 kids show up for youth group. When we got a youth pastor with a real vision in place, we grew that from 50 to 500 youth in about 18 months. We treated everyone like humans, no matter their ages. We weren’t afraid to tackle complex and difficult spiritual issues, and their hungry minds ate it up.

Your young people know when they deserve better. They may not have the tools to express that in a healthy or appropriate manner because they are still kids, but they know. You should know too. When youth start slipping away, look to yourself and your attitude first.

Youth Church Is Not A Resume Builder

Too many times in that youth group that I grew up in, our youth pastor position was a revolving door. Some pastors used it to see if they would like being a pastor. Some only stayed long enough to get a job as head pastor. Some just didn’t like youth.

For me, this always felt much worse than being overlooked. Being overlooked is hearing, “I know you’re there, but I don’t really see you.” Being a line on someone’s resume is hearing, “I see you, and you only mean as much to me as I can get from you.” This is the worst perception a child can have of themselves or their church leaders.

For the last time, I’ll refer back to the study I linked at the start of this article. Teen minds seek out rewards. Pastors who only look at youth groups as the next rung on their ladder will not provide the structure and stability that rewards the input of a possible youth leader. As my youth pastor once told me, “Get in, or get out. There is no halfway in a youth church.”

Disciples do what their teacher does. Consider that before making your next move.

Growth Through Discipleship: Final Remarks

When talking to people about discipleship, some people find it strange that I speak so much about the pastors rather than the disciples. The reason is that the primary method of learning behaviors is seeing them done. Even though people take in knowledge in different ways, as we covered, behaviors are passed through modeling.

The number rule of discipling others was stated by Jesus when he said, “Go, and do as I have done.” Keep those words in mind as your youth leaders look to you for guidance and support.

In the next article, we are going to take a close look at using fun to attract new converts, keep them engaged, and do it all in a safe and appropriate manner.

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6 Church Communication Best Practices To Know & What To Avoid

In my experiences working in churches, I’ve discovered several church communication best practices that I’ve used to avoid all manner of miscommunications and mishaps (some of which were learned the hard way!)

Here’s a scenario:

The printed flyers for your church’s 10th year anniversary have just been delivered. As you review, you get a sinking feeling in your stomach. Why? You somehow forgot to include the date of the event on the flyer. That’s not all: you also notice a typographical error. What a costly mistake! The flyers have to be redesigned and reprinted, all 5,000 of them.

Sadly, it is no fault of the printing company. They sent you the draft and you gave the final approval before it went into print. But this could have been avoided with a proper communication process and strategy in place. 

The best practices shared in this article will help to ensure that the intended audience gets your message clearly with minimal to no interference. This will in turn improve turnout at your church’s planned events, increase clarity on your mission and values, and help ensure your congregation and staff members are clear on all the happenings at your church. 

I share from my 20+ years experience as a church leader and administrator. I highlight the best practices that I’ve learned, and I also cover several of the most common problems in church communication.

In this article, I’ll cover:

6 Best Practices For Church Communication

Here are my best practices for ensuring communication within your church helps you spread your message and mission, instead of hindering it.  

1. Over Communicating Beats Under Communicating 

Sharing an important announcement once does not usually get the job done. There are so many things vying for our attention today that the congregation or intended audience may not remember the announcement once service ends, or once they leave church premises. This is why reminders are imperative. Build reminders into your weekly services, have the information on your church website, and include it in your weekly bulletins.

2. Use A Variety Of Church Communication Software

Church communication software is a broad term that can include any type of software or tool that helps you communicate with your congregation or conduct internal communication with your staff. 

Here are a few ideas for types of tools and software you might use. These are great ways to reiterate church announcements.

Email

Mass mailing services such as Mailchimp, Flodesk, or Constant Contact are just a few of the many online email marketing automation platforms that allow you to send one message to hundreds and even thousands of people on your mailing list. These platforms generally require a small monthly fee, although in some cases they might be free, depending on the size of your congregation.

Within these platforms, you are also able to categorize email lists. For example, one category of emails can be for heads of departments, another might be for your general congregation or just new church members, and so forth. This is a very convenient feature that allows you to send certain messages to only the people that need to receive them.

Mass Text Messaging

This type of software is great for sending text message reminders about events to your congregation. Flocknote, EZ Texting, and ChurchCast are just a few of the mass texting platforms that allow you to text your entire congregation at once.

Remember to keep the messages short and straight to the point. No one likes to read lengthy text messages.

Social Media

By this point, your church should be using social media, be it Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Generally, these pages are public-facing (meaning anyone can see them, unless you adjust your settings to disallow this), so keep in mind that both the intended audience and anyone else who stumbles across your profile can read the information you post here. Not all messages should be posted here, unless the general public is your intended audience.

For example, if your church is hosting a blood drive, or a business fair open to the general public, you will want to post these types of messages on your social media pages. However, a reminder about the upcoming ushers’ meeting should not be posted on a public platform.

Group Chat Applications

WhatsApp (which usually works better for smaller churches) is a favorite and reliable application. You can create a dedicated WhatsApp Group Chat for important church messages and announcements, and use it to reiterate messages or send reminders about upcoming events.

You may need to set boundaries and let users know that the page is strictly for church information. You do not want messages or reminders to get lost in a myriad of other unrelated posts and memes.

Send Reminders Via Heads Of Department 

Each head of department or unit at a church will have their trusted and reliable way of communicating with members of their department. You may want to ask them to remind their department members about an upcoming church event that requires their attendance.

For example, you can ask the choir director to remind her department about an upcoming worker’s training seminar. Highlight the specific information that you want shared with departmental members. 

3. Emphasize Messages During Church Services 

Right before the actual sermon or after it are great opportunities to relay general announcements, upcoming events, and any other tidbits that your congregation at-large should know.

However, avoid overloading announcements: Plan ahead so your church’s weekly announcements are properly spaced. Having too many announcements at one service will lead to people forgetting or missing information.

Ensure that the announcer at the service receives the announcements in good time: This will give enough time for them to review and prepare. Sending the announcements the night before the 8 am service is bad communication practice.

4. Promote Events In A Timely Manner

This is key. If you start to talk about an upcoming event too early, it may dilute the significance of the event as the day approaches because your intended audience has heard it one time too often.

There are a variety of ways to go about mass promotion of major church events: Flyers, posters, banners, or digital adverts. Make sure to use a consistent color theme for all publications. This helps with easy recognition and branding. Decide on a color scheme and use those colors consistently in the creation of posters, flyers and banners—be it digital or hard copies.

5. Double Check Your Work

The scenario I posited in the intro is actually a true story. When I was the administrator of a large international church organization, I learned this lesson the hard way. At the end of what had been an extremely busy work week, I accidentally approved the printing of posters and flyers for a major event. Regretfully, there was a major typo—which I missed.

That painful and costly experience led me to develop an almost foolproof system that I use before approving any information intended for wide distribution.

I created a checklist that includes a list of basic information that goes into every form of mass advertisement used at that church. The checklist included:

  • Date of the event
  • Time of the event
  • The venue
  • Website address of the church
  • Telephone number of the church
  • Name of event

By having this checklist handy, I was able to cross-check before giving the go-ahead to print or distribute digitally.

The second step of my system involved enlisting the assistance of at least two other trusted individuals (members of the event planning team) to check to ensure I did not omit important information.

The truth is we are humans and are prone to human error. Having a good system in place will greatly reduce or eliminate costly human errors altogether.

6. Pay Close Attention To The Design Of Any Promotional Material

Let’s say you are organizing a free back-to-school give-away. You want to make sure the purpose of the event is clear at first glance on any flyers or ads. This might mean having the title bolded, along with photos of backpacks and school supplies. A photo of the pastor should not be the most prominent image on the flyer.

Busy designs unrelated to the message take away from the importance of intended messages. Unnecessary floral designs and graphics just make it hard to read the message that you are trying to convey. Your intended audience should not have to fight through unnecessary designs to get to the actual message.

Also, make sure to clearly explain any specific instructions that event attendees will need. For example, say your church is having a toy drive. You’ll want to make sure the following is clear:

  1. The types of toys needed or required.
  2. The toy collection deadline.
  3. Where donors should put the toys. For example, toys should be placed in the collection bins at the main entrance, in the lobby.
  4. Whether cash donations will be accepted in lieu of toys, for those that are unable to purchase toys due to time constraints. How should they make the donation? If giving online, should they type “toy drive” when making their donation?
  5. Whether “toy drive” should be written on the giving envelope.

All of these instructions and more have to be clarified and spelled out to improve the chances of success of your drive.

Common Church Communication Problems

Keep a watchful eye on your communications to ensure you avoid the following. 

Ambiguity In The Message

Clarity and specificity are important when crafting your messages—this helps to ensure your messages are clear, well understood, and received by the target audience.

Creating a church communications plan or communication strategy can help you ensure your messaging is clear and consistent, to drive effective church communication.

Here’s an example:

  • An ambiguous message or announcement might simply state: the senior pastor is meeting with church leadership next Sunday after service.
  • A clear and specific version of the same message might read: the senior pastor is meeting with elders and associate pastors next Sunday after service to discuss plans for the annual summer picnic event.

Too Many Events

If you schedule too many back-to-back events, You might wear out your congregation, and you shouldn’t be surprised at a poor turnout at your church events. Your congregation is just tired and needs to recuperate from last week’s event that required all hands on deck and 2 months of planning.

Timing

Does the day and time of the event work for the majority of the intended audience? Not many people will show up if you set a meeting for 6 pm and the majority of those that are expected at the meeting do not finish work until 5.30 pm or 6 pm.

Lack Of Post-Event Meeting

Holding a post-event meeting can help you and your staff analyze how the event went, what could be done better, and what went well, so that you can improve future events.

Let’s say you are planning a repeat of an event that was held before, but the previous event did not meet expectations. If you don’t hold a post-event meeting, solicit feedback, or create a survey to help with improvements at the next event, you can expect a similar disappointing result at the second event.

Go, Implement, & Excel

Implementing all of the aforementioned will not only help to improve the communication practices at your church, it will also lead to better turnout at your events. I hope these strategies will also enable you to identify other areas for improvement in your church communication practices.

If you’re having trouble getting your church communications in order (or even the general administration and management of your church), consider using church management software or a broader church software to start running things smoothly. 

Related Read:

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The Ultimate Church Communication Strategy In 5 Easy Steps

I would not be serving my local community today if it weren’t for a dedicated church communication strategy, and more than likely, neither would you. Communication is the very lifeblood of society and humanity as a whole. Without it, meaning and the sharing of information is impossible. 

As such, communication is a major key to sharing the gospel of Jesus. If we do not and cannot actively communicate, there is no way to share the Good News like Jesus did (Luke 8:1). Unfortunately, building a comprehensive and efficient church communication strategy is easier said than done. 

Here are the topics that we are tackling to help you with this:

What Is A Church Communication Strategy?

A church communication strategy is the means by which you express the gospel to those around you. There are many forms and steps that it takes, and these can differ for each church. This strategy requires careful planning and mindfulness for those who a church is trying to reach. 

At its core, church communication strategy is the method of growing and building your community of believers. Communication is the foundational way that we as humans connect, and strategically picking how we do so can spiritually expand the four walls of the church. 

It does not happen by accident but necessitates the heartfelt, prayerful intention of the church’s leaders and congregation. In my time in full-time ministry, I see church communication strategy as one of the most crucial parts of sharing God’s message to the world.

Church Communication Plans

Developing a physical, tangible plan for how you communicate is highly recommended. Though some churches are able to grow without the need for schedules, spreadsheets, or dozens of pages of documents, others will benefit from the structure that it provides. 

Having a clear picture and idea of what you are trying to communicate, and how you will do it, can prepare your leadership in a great way. This gives a common goal that is easy to grasp and you will more clearly understand the results, too. That is why we previously created a dedicated guide just for making church communication plans

If you want in-depth insight into how to form a plan of action across multiple forms of communication, including helpful templates, that guide is for you. 

How To Develop A Church Communications Strategy?

illustration of the 5 steps to developing a church communications strategy
The 5 steps to developing a solid church communications strategy.

When it comes to your overall church communication strategy, there are several steps that you should follow. These steps will guide you along the way to finding out what works best for your church. Every community is different, but these steps are a guideline by which you can successfully build your church. 

1. Define Your Environment

To start out on the right foot, you need to first look around at your environment. This includes not just the church and its building(s), but the area around it as well. The ultimate goal for us as Christians is to spread the gospel to the entire world, but we cannot just jump straight to that step. 

We, first, need to build up to that and it begins with the immediate area around us. The city, county, region, state, and province that we are in is our environment. Start small and clearly define what is happening in your area. Why this is important is because your church’s environment on one side of the world will be completely different than someone else’s on the other side of the world.

There can even be dramatically different situations between churches in the same state, let alone country. It is crucial that you understand the types of people that you are trying to communicate the message of salvation to. 

For instance, one church might find that they need to help the large number of single parents and broken homes in their area, while another in a different area notices the significant population of starving children. And yet, still, there might be another church that needs to tackle both groups. 

In my experience, our organization initially saw the immediate needs of those in a small neighborhood known as Echo Park, then gradually expanded to involve places like Skid Row, the entirety of LA County, and eventually other nearby places like Long Beach. 

Once you define the environment and the needs around you, you can then start to meet those needs and communicate properly. It is imperative that you know the people that live around you every day.

2. Focus On Your Values

Once you know who you are communicating with, it is then important to decide what you will be saying to them. This is where your values come into play. The Bible is universal and necessary for every church, but there are some parts that will be helpful with the situations in your community. 

You need to determine the values that your church has, so that you can be transparent in your messages to the community around you. This means creating the fundamentals by which your church stands. What do you believe in? What sort of events do you have each week? What are the goals you have in mind?

These answers may be obvious to you, but it is not necessarily the case for someone unfamiliar with your church. You should be ready to communicate these values clearly so that even the newest believer has an idea of what they are getting involved with. 

3. Craft A Flexible Message

With your audience and values in mind, it is time to create your means of communication and messaging. This can be the make it or break it point for some churches in forming their church communication strategy. Above all else, it is imperative that you craft flexible messaging for use everywhere.

The Bible is the versatile form of God’s Word that was created for all people of all ages of all generations. Just as it remains a flexible communication from God, so should the church’s strategy. The values that you have are not meant for a single form of media or one person; it should be malleable to the point of including anyone and everyone at any time. 

What this means in practice is that you should be communicating across multiple fields and forms. With these same values in mind, you should execute them in a way that will make sense for the traditional face-to-face meetings with people in your community as well as online in the modern digital age. 

Though the words and method may change considerably, the meaning should never. This way, no matter how someone finds out about your church, they will have the same knowledge of it as everyone else. 

4. Distribution Is Key

With the modern style of communication, it is vastly different from even at the time of Jesus. This is where your distribution must be flexible as well. Churches should communicate with prospective and current members through a variety of ways. This ensures that everyone gets the message and in the right way for them.

Social media, for instance, is a huge part of modern church communication strategy. If your church does not already have a Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, get on that. These are the bare minimum and I think that is even putting it too lightly. 

These days, churches should also have a digital service available. Stream your services online on YouTube and elsewhere, or, at the very least, record it for later uploading as a video or podcast. Whether or not you personally agree with church members attending online from their home, this is a must these days for integrating new members and keeping old ones.

Finally on the topic of communication channels, there is TikTok. This is a rising social media app that I highly recommend to any church looking to grow. This is where the younger possible churchgoers will be and the church needs to be there, too, to meet their needs. Communicating your announcements, services, and events online in goofy short social media posts using trending sounds can set your church apart from everyone else.

Of course, you should not forget about the old-fashioned methods of communication as well. Going door-to-door for follow ups, passing out flyers, setting up posters, and all that can still be effective. I know this from personal experience. We dedicated entire days of the week at the LA Dream Center just to pass out flyers in our community. 

5. Remember The Goal

Lastly, the final key to excellent church communication strategy is always remembering why you are running this race (Acts 20:24). In every little step that you take, always seek God and His assistance in the matter. Make sure that every part of your strategy aligns with him and that nothing is taken for granted. 

With such busy lives and so many avenues for communication, it can be tough to keep up with everything. People can be lost in the process, due to neglect of the church and forgetting about what really matters. This is a common mistake that I’ve found these days. 

If necessary, take steps back sometimes and look at the bigger picture. If it is too much for your team to handle, that means it is time to get more help or refocus. Never let the strategy, plans, and methods of saving souls cause you to lose sight of those people. 

No matter how big or small your church is, always remember why we are doing this. In my department, we ran programs dealing with over 2000 kids a week in the Los Angeles area. It is a lot to manage and it took a lot of people to make it happen. Sometimes it was a struggle and we made mistakes but we always tried to do the small things.

These include visiting someone’s home to see how they’re doing, bringing cookies or treats just to let someone know you’re thinking of them, sending out personal text messages to first-time guests, and so on. Try not to focus so much on the strategy that you forget the goal. 

Internal Church Communication Strategy

A key part about church communication strategy is knowing the differences and similarities between internal and external. Ultimately, they should be one and the same, but there are parts that are unique to each. The internal strategy constitutes your plan when it comes to communicating with the already present congregation.

In this, I think that transparency is absolutely crucial. If we cannot be clear with our church staff and members as communicators, this can lead to distrust. That, in turn, can lead to discourse and the divorce of a church with itself. Even with the difficult topics and scenarios, it is imperative that the church leaders come together and decide a way to communicate what happened with the body. 

It is also important for us as church communicators to recognize that some members are at various parts of their walk with Christ. Some are new to this, others have been here for decades, and still others are returning after being away. Each of these scenarios, and the countless individual ones within each category, needs to be handled slightly differently. Adjust your communication plans to welcome and further each group equally. 

External Church Communication Strategy

External communication is just as important as internal communication. One cannot succeed without the other. Outside of your church are the possible new members that we would want to add to the community in Christ. This is where outreach, evangelism, community events, and more can be impactful.

Observe and understand the world outside of the four walls of the church building. Use that knowledge to plan events and outreaches that make sense. Pour into non-profits and connect with other churches and organizations that are like-minded. 

Figure out a way to seamlessly integrate new members from outside the church into the church community without stopping there. You should always have a strategy for how you will keep someone connected into the church and knowing what’s going on, such as a next steps program and small groups. Make sure that your church website, social media, and everything else is accessible and understandable to anyone that sees it. 

Church Communication Style Guide

When it comes to external communication specifically, the style or brand of your church is powerful. You are essentially advertising yourself, so you want to make sure that everything you do is cohesive. This is why, as cheesy as it is, you should market your church’s brand wherever possible. 

Every website and social media page you are on, all of the church newsletters you hand out, every Easter event that you hold, and so on should have the same logos, color scheme, and brand. Creating this unified front will ensure that everyone immediately knows who you are and what you do. Your team members should be on the same page as well.

This is especially important if you have more than one church plant or campus. For example, it is possible you’ve heard of a ministry called the Dream Center. The LA Dream Center is the original but there are hundreds around the world that are connected to the source. If you know what the first center does, chances are you already know some of what the partnered centers do, like the one in Australia

This same idea should apply to your church’s communication, online presence, branding, and marketing. Choose a fun logo, name, and style that is consistent across everything you do. Make t-shirts with it, ensure your church’s website showcases your style, make signs for the church that are instantly recognizable, and use it anywhere else where members of your church, as well as people outside the church, might see it. 

Create Your Church Communication Strategy Today

Church communication strategy can be one of the most daunting tasks, and one that many ignore because of it. It takes effort, budgets, people, and spiritual guidance to make it happen. However, if you are able to effectively communicate your church and beliefs to everyone inside and outside of your congregation, you will be in the best position to expand the Kingdom. 

I implore you to create a cohesive brand for your church, and start sharing your values to your community in a way that makes sense for your area. And never forget the reason why we are doing this, no matter how large you get, so that your God-driven communication goal is not lost in the process. 

Related Read: Church Communication Best Practices To Know & What To Avoid

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Young Disciples: Turning A Youth Group Into A Youth Church

The purpose of this series is to teach you how to grow your youth group into a youth church through three methods: leadership, discipleship, and fun. All three are vital for preteens and teens to grow into successful adults who will be great contributors to your church or wherever they end up in life. 

As a church grows, it attracts many different types of people and families. Families, of course, mean young people. In this series, we will deal with youth. Children, in the definition that we used at the church where I was assistant youth pastor, were elementary age. Youth were middle and high school age with a grace period up to 21-years-old at most.

I’m Lexie Schmidt, and, of all the positions I have had in the church, I loved being a youth pastor the best. So, let’s get into youth churches and what makes them different from a typical youth group.

I’ll cover:

Group Or Church: What’s The Difference?

The primary difference between a youth group and a youth church is the focus or purpose of the meetings and the investment of time and effort when the group is not in service. For instance, a youth group might meet Wednesday nights during adult church and not do much outside of that. 

illustration of a youth group next to a church
There are several differences between youth groups and youth churches.

The youth church might have its own night for service, or might take one from the adults (with the lead pastor’s permission, of course). Functionally, your youth church should be a church-within-a-church.

The second issue is the focus on developing leaders. The adult church develops elders, deacons, and other lay leaders and can prepare people to become clergy. A youth church does the same thing, except the people are younger. 

Third, a youth church is a safe harbor for young people who might be going through a difficult time as they move from childhood to adulthood. Physical, mental, and emotional changes wreak havoc on teens, and a constantly shifting network of friends and enemies disorients them to say the least.

If it sounds like you have a youth group, and you want to change things for the better, read on! This is going to be fun.

Growth Through Leadership

The first step in beginning a youth church is developing members of your youth group into spiritual leaders among their peers. This part will show you how to identify, teach, and promote young people into a core group around which you will build the rest of your youth church.

While we are focusing on youth leaders here, your adult leadership team, the youth pastor and other older supervisors, should all be well-versed in your entire plan for your youth church. As amazing as your young people can become, they still feel peer pressure, so you need enough adult voices to mitigate those influences.

Also, you are dealing with minors, so all adults should be fully vetted through background checks and interviews. We’ll get more into safety later in this series.

Identifying Youth Leaders

Young people present a unique problem: they are still growing. While many adults do not know who they are yet, it is true that teens, for the most part, have no idea who they want to be. Adolescence is the time when a person gets to try out any number of new facets.

illustration of youth church members under a magnifying glass
Identifying good leadership candidates from your youth church takes a keen eye.

The ever-changing roles that teenagers play as they find themselves make your job harder, compared to finding what works for your adult church members. The important thing is to never box a teen into a role. The more they can breathe, the more they will grow.

The Natural Leader

Natural leaders are the ones that others look up to without trying. Maybe it’s a guitar player or a singer on your worship team. It might be an athlete or the lead pastor’s kid. This leader is always the center of a conversation, even when they aren’t around.

Natural leaders like to be the center of attention because they usually are. They’re used to the spotlight, and they like it. They might not think to volunteer for the youth church if they learned their leadership skills through sports or academics or other non-church activities.

Natural leaders, like all others, have a number of advantages and traits to look out for.

Advantages:

  • Charismatic. Natural leaders are usually the ones who are best at preaching and singing, and being seen.
  • Teachable. Since their leadership often pulls them into situations such as team sports, they can usually identify authority figures and know how to listen.
  • Strong-willed. These leaders are normally the ones who cause peer pressure instead of succumbing to it, but they are not immune. Still, their influence can be used for good.

Traits to look out for:

  • Proud. Since these leaders tend to be naturally gifted, many of them have been praised for their talents all their lives. In the worst cases, they will only take criticism or advice from an authority figure.
  • Questionable Work Ethic. We see this every year when college football players are drafted because of their amazing talent, but they fizzle out because they don’t put in the work. Not every natural leader has this problem, but you will run into it once in a while.
  • Entitled. The quarterback on my high school football team never did homework because he got the girls to do it for him. He was definitely smart enough to do the work himself, but he didn’t feel like he had to. Again, this is something to look out for, not a guarantee.

I see natural leaders as being like Simon Peter: loud, brash, and bold, but in desperate need of polish before being ready to lead. Whichever type of natural leader you identify, remember that they can be some of your most dynamic leaders as long as you learn their specific weaknesses and help strengthen them.

The Servant Leader

Servant leaders hardly ever need to be recruited. They are always ready and willing to help. While a natural leader leads through command, servant leaders lead through example. Many of them do not realize that others look up to them. Some even cross into being too humble.

Once again, in a reflection of the natural leader, the servant leader will usually need to be thrust into the light, rather than seeking it out. However, given the opportunity, many servant leaders turn out to be hiding amazing gifts and talents that can even rival the natural leaders. It is up to you to bring your leaders and their talents to the front.

Advantages:

  • Volunteer. To be Christian is to be Christ-like, and volunteering is generally considered one of the most Christ-like things to do. Churches run on volunteers.
  • Knowledgeable. Hand-in-hand with volunteering is knowing how the church runs. Many times the path to leadership roles and greater responsibility comes through knowing how to get things done.
  • Listener. A good servant learns how to listen to accomplish the goals of the church. When they move into leadership roles, such as peer support, their ability to listen becomes invaluable.

Traits to look out for:

  • Background. These usually are not your rock stars and sports stars. They tend to be people who just want to help, nothing more. It’s fine for someone to just volunteer, but that one kid who is an hour early to every service to help setup and stays an hour late to help teardown needs to know that they are called to greater things.
  • Humility. Jesus showed his humility and service through the washing of feet and the serving of food. Jesus also spoke forcefully when the need arose. Servant leaders sometimes need permission to be strong-willed. We will get into that in the teaching section.
  • Quiet. Servants get too used to listening. Even when they are in charge of a project, they might not speak loud enough for people to hear or respect. Help them find their voice. Just as the natural leader has a voice but sometimes lacks the work ethic, the servant leader has all the work ethic but lacks a voice.

The first attribute to look for is the kid who is always there. They always ask what to do next. They might even get anxious when everything is done. Your first thought about a servant leader might be that they are annoying. Let that feeling ring a bell in your mind that this person who just won’t leave you alone is actually on a path to leadership.

I compare servant leaders to James: you don’t hear much from him, but, when he does speak, it’s important. Of all three types of leaders, these ones are the easiest to overlook, so always be sure you know who is getting the jobs done in your youth church.

The Reluctant Leader

Reluctant is not the most accurate word for these leaders. When I was assistant youth pastor for 500 teens and young adults, we found that these people almost always had to be dragged into leadership. Several just refused to join the team, and we respected that decision, but we did not agree with it.

So, if “reluctant” is not the most accurate word, what is? Scholar. Seriously, these are people who will bug you constantly about minutia of scripture and Biblical accuracy and so on. Some will even take notes on your sermons and ask you to address certain points. They have been known to induce rage among pastors, but, Good Lord, do they make for amazing teachers.

While that might sound mostly negative, reluctant leaders have a range of advantages as well.

Advantages:

  • Intelligent. Possibly the smartest people in your church, adult or youth. They constantly question everything about the universe and their place in it. Directed at specific issues, they are problem solvers.
  • Diligent. Some of the best note takers I have ever known. They tend to be organized, efficient, and calculated.
  • Cautious. Reluctant leaders also got their name from this trait. They think before they speak or act. They plan for failure and learn from it to mitigate pain in the future.

Traits to look out for:

  • Overthinkers. Many suffer from “paralysis-by-analysis” when presented with a difficult problem. Another reason behind their name as well. A reluctant leader who learns to trust their instincts becomes a force to be reckoned with.
  • Slow. Since they constantly reevaluate how things work to find better methods, they can get bogged down in the finer details of processes that already work. The concept of diminishing returns can be lost on them.
  • Reluctant. Too much caution becomes reluctance, and your leader does nothing. Motivational talks work sometimes, but training in confidence and self esteem works wonders in this area.

Reluctant leaders, when asked if they have any interest in ministry or leadership, often reply, “Oh, I’m just asking questions!” The proper answer is to offer them exactly what they want: answers to more questions. Later on, we will talk about hungry minds, but these minds are starving. 

I compare reluctant leaders to Paul: greatly intelligent, but driven in the wrong direction until he was pointed to the right scriptures to complete his transformation. They are the most difficult to recruit, but they make the biggest impact of the three types of youth leaders.

Teaching Youth Leaders

Maybe, as you read the previous section, some of your youth, or even adult, church members sprung to mind. If so, then you are well on your way to gathering potential leaders into a discipleship program. But what is a discipleship program, and how do you develop one to fit you?

illustration of a youth leader reading the bible
Tailor your discipleship program to your specific leadership needs.

A discipleship program prepares regular church members for leadership roles. It ensures that they know the stances that you and your denomination (if any) hold on spiritual issues and gives them the knowledge to deal with various situations—especially when a situation needs to be sent upward to ordained clergy.

Because each denomination has its own set of beliefs and rituals, I cannot give a one-size-fits-all curriculum for you. I can teach you how to develop your own. I’ll also help you figure out how many leaders you need for your youth church and show a few examples of how you can give your youth leaders opportunities for success.

Developing A Curriculum

First, develop your tier system. You should not model it after the adult church, and you should definitely not take the adult ranks and put “youth” in front of them. Nothing sounds worse to a teen than “Youth Deacon”. Nothing sounds less thought out than “Youth Elder”. 

I would encourage you to give your youth church a theme and name the tiers after them. Each rank should have both educational and service requirements. We are focusing on education here, and we will get into service requirements in the section on promoting youth leaders.

Your first tier above your church members would simply be someone who knows the basic tenets or catechisms of your denomination (or foundational principles, if non-denominational). Typically, this course of education should not be longer than 8 weeks or shorter than 4 weeks.

The next tier should understand the more advanced concepts of your denomination’s views and be able to apply scripture to various situations. This course needs to prepare them to be peer counselors with a focus on knowing when to bring a situation up the ranks. For my youth church, this tier was about six months of training.

The final tier, for my youth pastor and I, was more tailored to the individual and lasted for at least a year. By the end of this tier, a person could preach sermons and lead prayer groups, if called upon to do so. For my part, I was assisting my youth pastor in preparing his sermons and was leading the entire volunteer group that switched the main auditorium to the youth configuration during this period of my training.

You may decide that you want more tiers or fewer tiers, but the important part is that they are challenging, exciting, and dynamic. For larger groups, like the first tier, you can make lessons out of games and contests. In our youth church, each tier had its own color T-shirt, and we made getting a new shirt a constant goal. Whatever you decide, be sure to keep up the energy and excitement.

How Many Leaders Do I Need?

Typically, for every 50 youth, you need at least one adult leader for supervision. I have found that is the maximum one person can keep an eye on. This includes the youth pastor and any former youth who have aged out of the youth church but have stayed on as adult leadership. 

For the youth leaders, we would take as many who wanted to join the leadership team. This does not mean that all of them get automatically promoted at the end of their current tier of training. A youth pastor can probably only give the personalized pre-ministry training of a top-tier leader to one or two people at a time. You can have people from higher tiers help train those of lower tiers which definitely reduces strain.

That doesn’t quite answer the question, though. For worship leaders, take anyone who can play an instrument. Band members come and go all the time. Musicians are flighty. Singers are usually more stable, so take as many as you have microphones for or can fit on your stage. Peer counselors should be trained up to around 1 for every 20 church members. They can help pray at the end of service as well.

Don’t forget the volunteers who help with setup and teardown. This number will depend almost entirely on your space and equipment. This is another area where we took as many people as possible who were willing to listen.

Giving Youth Leaders Opportunities To Use Their Skills

The purpose of this education is to train your youth leaders with the skills to help both their peers and themselves succeed as humans and as Christians. With training, you pass your skills to your trainees. And then, comes practice.

So, do we send them out to their peers without guidance? Absolutely not. Have them shadow their trainer for a few instances. Always get the consent of the person who is being helped. Any pastor knows that some situations our congregants bring us are very sensitive, so don’t force a person to take part in the training of someone else.

If you are training someone who is called to preach, start them small with an offering sermon or a call to prayer. Have them speak to smaller groups for Bible study or lower tier training. For worship leaders, switch the lead vocalist in each service or even from one song to the next. Give your leaders space to shine and grow in their talents.

Inevitably, a youth leader will fail in their assignment. Such is the hazard of being human. You get far more out of them by being kind and supportive and helping them learn than by being harsh and punitive. The resiliency of young people astonished me even when I was young myself. Second chances make for great leaders.

Promoting Youth Leaders

The answer to this is both simple and complex: promote your leaders when they are ready. Knowing when they are ready takes time, patience, and development of your skills as a teacher and trainer. You will make mistakes along the way, especially in the beginning, but you will get there. I promise.

illustration of a leader pinning a badge on a youth leader
Keep your youth leaders motivated throughout training.

Let’s look at an example of leadership tiers and their requirements for completion. After that we’ll look at how to identify the best place for leaders to lead. Finally, we will talk a bit about the process of training someone to go into the ministry.

An Example Of Leadership Tiers And Requirements

I laid out a broad example in the previous section, but now, I am going to get a little detailed. The primary reason we used a tier system for our leadership team was to ensure that the people at the top, our inner circle, were there for the right reasons and had the best intentions.

For that reason, tier 1 was open to all. Many youth would drop out during this, which is fine. People, oftentimes, like the idea of leadership without wanting the work that goes with it. The requirements were a six-week course and a half-hour of volunteering before or after service every week. Upon completion, they got their first T-shirt and a 3-ring binder to put their course work in.

Tier 2 was a little more exclusive, and the requirements themselves stopped most people from even signing up. Six months of training and an hour of volunteering before and after every service is a tough sell, but these leaders would be trusted to lead small groups, pray with their peers, and head sections of the youth church. An upgraded T-shirt and a special prayer for those being promoted were their completion rewards.

Tier 3 was only completed by a few people before I left that church. As far as I know, three total people finished, me being one, with two or three more in the process. Several people started and dropped out. The requirements were one year, minimum, of training and we basically lived at church. This included challenges like “Read the Bible Start to Finish in Three Months” and other intense training. Basically, a person could go from here to Bible college without missing a beat.

Certain leadership roles had special requirements. Anyone on the worship team or other role that put them in front of the crowd had to also volunteer on behind-the-scenes duties like stuffing bulletins or stacking chairs. Tier 3 trainees also had to preach at least once a month. I fulfilled that by preaching in the children’s church on Sunday mornings for about 6 months.

While these requirements may seem steep, remember that you are dealing with teens and young adults who will be acting in leadership roles that many times are held by people two or three times their age in the adult church. If they are not prepared, they will do more harm than good, and it will be on the person who trained them…you.

Assigning Your Leaders To Their Best Positions

The solution here is just simple: try things out until they work. Your worship team will mostly figure it out on their own and come running. Occasionally, you might have to coax someone into worship, but not often. The other positions in your youth church will always be in flux which is not a bad thing.

Remember that I said the purpose of all this education and training is to make your youth successful humans and Christians. Sometimes, the best way to find success is to try a number of different things. Lucky for everyone involved, young people grow up and move on as they should. This means that every year spots that once were held by some will be vacant again. Other times, a leader might ask for a new assignment because they are not being fulfilled where they are.

As the minds of your teens grow, they will change and need to seek out new areas for growth. Allow it. The more they try as leaders, the more well-rounded they will become. Nothing bad comes from letting them try to lead in different ways. You never know what new skills they will unlock.

Assisting Youth Leaders Who Have A Call For Ministry

I have been a part of churches that would allow on-the-job training to lead to ordination and churches that require formal education at a Bible college or seminary. The type of church that you are a part of may change your specific approach for this section, but the principles will apply whether a youth leader works into ordination or goes to college after they pass your final tier (Tier 3 in my example).

As we train young people, some will realize that preaching or leading worship or some other aspect of ministry is their calling in life. So, what can we do? In short, you make them your shadow and provide all the support they need to be successful. In long, think about your own troubles and issues as you studied and trained to be minister and try to smooth those bumps in the road.

That is not to say you should make it easy. Rather, you should not make it harder, and you should clear some of the stumbling blocks in front of your student. By this time, you should know them as well as anyone else in the world. Teach them how to learn. It is our greatest skill as pastors.

Growth Through Leadership: What Have We Learned?

So, this was a lot, wasn’t it? We learned a lot about how a youth church looks and how to build a core of youth leaders through teaching and training them to be the best person they were born to be. Young people are our greatest resource, so let’s give every tool they can use to be successful.

In Part 2: Growth Through Discipleship, I will teach you how to tailor your approach to keep the minds of not just your leaders but your whole youth ministry engaged. We will look at how to deal with the emotional lives of teens and how to take their wonderful minds and powerful emotions and create a force of change in the world. 

Related Read: How To Mentor & Build Devoted Youth Leaders: Youth Discipleship

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What Is Church Software? A Complete Guide For Lead Pastors

Church software is a growing field of tools and resources used by lead pastors and their leadership teams to manage their church’s information and present their message to the world. Using church software to its fullest potential to both keep current members and bring in new members is vital in this information age.

According to this study, small churches with under 100 members are shrinking and mid-sized churches (between 100 and 250 members) are shrinking the most, but megachurches are holding steady. The second takeaway from that study is that, regardless of size, multi-ethnic congregations are not experiencing the same decline as the rest of the churches in America.

How do we turn this decline around? By knowing who is in our church, how much they participate and making it easy for them to join our community of faith. Thankfully, church software provides a clear path toward those goals.

This article is going to be what I have evaluated to be the best church software based on three key areas:

  • Ease-of-use. Many church members are older or disabled, and we need to keep them in mind.
  • Features. Not every church will use every feature, but a growing church develops new needs all the time.
  • Price. Budgets are tight. Our members pinch pennies these days, and our collection plates feel it first.

Here’s what I’ll cover:

What Is Church Software?

Before I write about what software is best, let’s start with the definition of church software, and look at a few of the features that separate it from other types of software. Keep in mind that church software can also be used by other religious organizations and non-profit organizations.

Church software falls into two distinct categories. The first category is management software. Church management software, or ChMS, compiles the information of your members, your finances, or your staff, and enables you to store and retrieve information about them digitally. ChMS, in the right hands, can be used as a complete church management system that can automate many tasks that your church administration once found tedious or difficult.

Church presentation software is the second category and includes the software used to present your church’s message, both in-house and externally. For instance, the software used to put worship lyrics on a screen for the congregation is under this category, but so is the video editing software that you could use to create a video for Youtube.

Of the two categories, more churches will likely use church management software. I have been to many churches that still sing from hymnals (even within the past few months!), but every church has members, finances, and staff. 

Church Software Features

Features you might be looking for in church software are:

  • Mass email or text messaging through SMS
  • Small group calendars
  • In-app tithing and offering
  • Event check-in and volunteer management
  • Keep track of the congregation with a member directory 
  • Individual or group prayer requests
  • Child check-in/check-out
  • Plan services
  • Generate reports for various cases
  • Create tax statements for church members
  • Display worship lyrics
  • Equalize sound
  • Record video and audio
  • Combine various signals for transmission
  • Display music for musicians
  • Create chord charts or transpose music for musicians
  • Edit photographs or videos into packages to be uploaded online

As you can see, church software has so many features that it might feel overwhelming at first. Don’t worry! In the next section, we’ll try to simplify things by looking at how your leaders and volunteers will use church software to run typical church scenarios.

Church Software Use Cases

Here’s some sample use cases you might turn to church software for.

A large snowstorm comes through Saturday evening. The plows have not come through by Sunday morning, and you call the church elders to confirm that it is that way throughout the city. You send the whole church a text to say that in-person service is canceled, but you will stream a message online.

In our next scenario, Christmas comes on a Friday, but that’s your normal day for choir rehearsal. The worship leader and drama director decide to hold a joint run-through on Wednesday evening (the day before your Christmas Eve service). They both schedule their practices through their church apps, and the choir and drama team both show up on time. The Christmas Pageant, by the way, went flawlessly.

On Monday night, you see a report on the news that a child was taken from a church daycare. You know that would never happen in your church because your childcare team uses software that generates a specific code for each child. No one can take the child without that code.

Your cash giving is down by 50% over last year. Normally, this would be cause for worry, but you feel just fine. Giving on your church’s website and app are up by over 200%. It turns out that people just don’t carry cash on them anymore.

You’ve noticed an increase in the quality of music lately, and your worship leader smiles so much more. You ask her what caused this reaction. She shows you the new software that lets her pick a song and send the right parts to each musician and singer, all while handling the transposition for the type of instrument or the range of the singer. As a bonus, it coordinates with the sound booth to give them the proper lyrics.

Church Management Software vs Church Presentation Software

Here is a handy table that will help you decide if you need church management software or church presentation software based on your most desired features.

Church Management SoftwareChurch Presentation Software
Event management toolsVideo editing
Volunteer coordination toolsSong library with lyrics
Financial reporting and trackingImage or slideshow editing
In-app or online giving, contribution managementAudio equalizer or editing
Group coordination toolsPackaging tools for efficient uploading
Churchwide emails and textsMusic editing and transposition
Track attendance
Update contact information
Managing daily operations
Church membership management

The Best Church Software

So, now that we know what we’re talking about, let’s get into why you’re reading this article: the software! Included in these sections will be some links to more in-depth articles concerning the various types of software and their uses.

The best functionality for your church might be in a mobile app you use for new member follow-up or fundraising. For one pastor, assigning administrative tasks for increased workflow might be the highest priority. Another pastor might focus on event registration and the ability to schedule volunteers for outreach missions.

The Best Church Management Software

The “best” church management software will vary from church to church. The needs of a rural church and a city megachurch are so wildly different that I can’t give a one-size-fits-all recommendation. Instead, I will base my notes below on a mid-sized congregation, using the definition above of a mid-sized church having between 100 and 250 members.

Whichever church management solution you ultimately choose, it should be the one that meets your church needs and is the most user-friendly for you, your church leaders, and your church membership.

With that in mind, Elvanto is your one-stop shop for most churches. At $50/month, a mid-sized church should be able to afford it. Elvanto handles finances, member relations, groups, volunteering, events, and basically everything else. At a higher price point, they will also create a custom app for your church. The features may be too much for a smaller church—but pastors in those churches can try these church management software for small churches.

Other specific discussions of different types of management software can be found at the following links:

The Best Church Presentation Software

Once again, “best” depends on you, your congregation, and your needs. In fact, your presentation software can sometimes be specific to the actual equipment you have available to you. Many times in my experience, an upgrade of equipment meant a necessary upgrade of software to control that equipment.

A software solution for worship planning can even be influenced by the acoustics of your auditorium. Still, with a little effort, your worship services can be a breeze. Remember, also, that these communication tools can grow churches of all sizes. Even large churches and church communities will benefit from finding ways to streamline their presentation.

However, we have a great number of articles dedicated to helping you set yourself up for success in the areas of presentation and communication. Find them at these convenient links:

Church Software For You

As a lead pastor, you are a manager of people and a communicator of the Gospel. As you’ve seen in this article, and I hope in the articles linked, church software makes you more effective in those roles. Just being on this website means that you are in a mindset of growth. Let that continue by investing in yourself and your church through the use of these digital tools.

I’m Lexie Schmidt, and comment below if you have anything to add or questions to ask.

Related Read:

Also Worth Checking Out:

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Technology In The Church: What Do Lead Pastors Need To Know?

I have dealt with technology in the church since I was very young. My mother was the administrative assistant at the church where I eventually became assistant youth pastor, and she employed my help to set up the church’s first computer network. Throughout my preteen and teen years, I continued to work on those systems.

In addition to the computers, I learned how to run and coordinate sound with cameras to produce videos. Young Alexandria could be found wherever technology touched the ministry. Today, I am currently working on overhauling my current church’s sound system and working with our lead pastor to upgrade our computer and software as well.

Primarily, my current church’s focus is on the emerging need for more comprehensive streaming tools. If you were to walk in on Sunday morning, you would count 15-20 people sitting in the pews. However, if you were to go on our Facebook page, our live streaming services have between 40 and 60 views per week. Online church attendance in just my small church is 2-3 times in-person membership.

Christians are seeking God in a whole new way. Worship services and bulletins are found online through social media or church websites. Church leaders need to take advantage of this online discipleship through technological advancement in this new digital age. The pandemic has brought us out of the church building and into church services in the digital world.

Do you know the true size of your membership? How many of them come from your online outreach? Are you doing everything you can to make the online experience feel as personal as the in-person experience?

As you answer these questions, you can start to answer the question posed by the next section: How important is the relationship between technology and the church?

I’ll cover:

Importance Of Technology In The Church

Short answer: Very important, and becoming more so by the day.

Long answer: I spent two months watching the Facebook streams of my church as they happened. The most concurrent live watchers were 4. However, this past Sunday, as I write this, within 24 hours of the service, the live stream had 27 views with only 15 in-person attendees. By the end of the week, we should see around 50 total views.

I noticed several issues with the music and speaking volume during the stream. I mostly solved this issue through my many years of experience with acoustics and sound technology. The lead pastor for my church and I spent an hour on a Monday night testing equipment from microphones to cords to the recording equipment itself to ensure that all of our technology was in working order, so that the web-based congregation would have a better experience.

As you can see, I personally take this very seriously in my own home church. We’ve even had discussions about possibly migrating to other streaming platforms, or simulcasting if possible. The importance of technology, especially when it comes to growing your church, can never be overstated.

Benefits Of Technology In The Church

Technology has a very broad definition and touches many different parts of your ministry. The rewards are abundant, even when they are not obvious.

  • Growth among youth. Older people also use technology in smaller numbers than youth. More on this below.
  • Streamlined services. Your worship leader can send the music to the band and singers with a push of a button. Your congregation can give through an app, and you can use software to count and report on it all.
  • Outreach among the elderly and disabled. Bringing bed-ridden church members into your service through technology makes them feel as though they have not been forgotten.
  • Lower costs. Many older sound and lighting technologies are very inefficient compared to their modern equivalents. You might pay a little more initially, but you will make up for it in savings for electricity and maintenance costs.
  • Community impact. By maintaining an online presence, you can be sure that more people within your community will be aware of church events, even if those people are not regular members.
  • Member tracking and followup. The right software allows you to see who has open prayer requests and follow up with them. You can also track giving and pledges while generating tax documents.
  • Track church finances. Church technology tracks your own expenditures and incomes. Good church finance software reveals those places where your church is losing money.

How To Plan For And Implement Technology In Your Church

If you haven’t started using technology to its fullest extent in your church, this section is going to help you get started with a few pointers and suggestions.

  • Start small. Don’t try to do too much at once. It is easy to get overwhelmed when you try new ideas, so take things one at a time.
  • Start cheap. I’m a musician, and the one thing I see new players do is buy thousands of dollars of equipment before they even know if they like the instrument. A lot of your technological needs will be the same. Once you have a solution that works, you can replace your inexpensive technology with more expensive tech.
  • The cheapest you can get is free. In this article, I teach you how to start from nothing to a working YouTube channel. If you use your smartphone as a camera, you can stream your next service at no cost. Finding free solutions allows you to take more risks in finding the perfect technology for your church.
  • Read the manual. I know it sounds silly, but I always read the manual when I get a new device. Many cameras, microphones, sound boards, and other equipment have hidden features that are not obvious. By taking a few minutes, you can turn a serviceable device into an amazing piece of machinery.
  • Technology is not just hardware. Smartphone apps let people give, volunteer, and more. As I said above, there is likely a software solution to the audio troubles for our live stream. In fact, most of the hardware you will find yourself using requires software. Some devices can be controlled by smartphone apps. Never overlook software. 

Youth And Technology In The Church

It’s no secret that young people do better with current technology than older people. According to this Pew Research poll, most Americans get their news from their devices with the younger generations engaging almost exclusively through social media on their smartphones. So, what does that mean for the church?

Simply, a church that is not actively growing through outreach among young people will eventually find itself losing more and more members to death and disability as they age. Your church’s use of technology could mean the difference between it existing twenty years from now or being yet another that closes its doors for good.

A few tips for engaging with youth are:

  • Participate in appropriate internet trends. Examples from the past include the ice bucket challenge, video game dances, and various memes.
  • Know where they are. Facebook tends to be used by older people these days. Young people are on Twitch, TikTok, and Instagram. YouTube is a middle ground that catches a little bit of everyone.
  • Cater your content toward them. This does not mean changing your entire Sunday service. Your outreach videos, however, should be shorter and punchier. 5-10 minutes is all you need to make an impact on the internet.
  • Be ok with always playing catch-up. I was very young when I became a youth pastor, and I was learning pop culture references from the youths. That’s ok. They don’t expect their pastors to be the coolest person ever if you try. They’ll respect the effort, usually.
  • Talk to them. Sometimes, the most helpful advice is the most obvious. The more youth that you talk to, the more you will understand them and their needs. You can tailor your approach once you do.

Issues And Disadvantages With Technology In The Church

So, I have really talked up technology in your church and why you should use it. However, technology is not for everyone. Better and newer technology means changes. Many people resist change, and some are just left behind. Most of these people are our older folks who are some of the steadiest and most faithful members of our congregations.

For that reason, upgrades should always be done slowly, in small increments. Let your church members get used to one or two new things at a time. Otherwise, and I have seen this happen, some of your longest serving members will leave and never return.

A balance must be struck between keeping the older church members, the ones who I call the “old faithfuls”, and bringing in the young folks who will one day take the place of the old faithfuls. Of course, those young people will probably be complaining about your successor bringing in their own new technologies, so the cycle will continue.

The other major issue I have personally seen is when a church becomes too dependent on technology. In some ways, it is nice to be able to still have a service when power goes out.

However, churches, after a certain size, become far too large to do that. Also, when all of your instruments are amplified, worship is more difficult under adverse conditions.

Finally, maintaining technology requires a decent amount of familiarity with it. People who did not take my advice to read the manual will find themselves here. Things always go wrong. It is far cheaper to diagnose and fix a problem than to buy new equipment. Be prepared for your team to be a part of the solution. 

What Is Church Software?

I mentioned church software a few times here, so let’s take a quick look at what it is. Church software, or ChMS, is software that helps you manage the various aspects of your church. Some software is an all-in-one package, while other software solves specific problems like finances, volunteering, or worship service.

Your church may need an all-in-one solution. It might not. Lucky for you, we at TheLeadPastor.com have written several articles detailing so many different software solutions.

Some common types of church software include:

More Resources About Technology In The Church

Eventually, you will reach the point that beginners’ articles and general approaches will no longer help you. We have you covered on that end, too! Read this article about The Best Church Technology Conferences to find places that can identify your needs and keep you on the cutting edge of church technology. Also, Church Technology Resources For Leaders is an article that gives you pathways to specific solutions for your problems.

If you have further questions, comment below, and I might be able to help or direct you to someone who can. 

Technology In The Church: Is It Right For You?

I hope this article has brought you to the conclusion that yes, technology is right for me and my church. My home church, which skews older and less tech inclined, still does board meetings over Zoom and has Wednesday Bible study over Zoom as well. We stream on Facebook every Sunday.

Maybe your church uses more technology or it might need a little less, but technology, especially in the area of computers and finance, can be the difference between your church surviving a down year or closing altogether.

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Guide To Church Conflict And Crisis Management

The other day my husband and I were chatting with a pastor friend, asking him how his past year went in their church. He had just started his new role as an associate pastor. It was his first time in that role; prior to that he was a youth pastor. 

He told us that he was exhausted. He began to share how it was a discouraging year for him. There was a lot of conflict in the church. There wasn’t any church growth. There seemed to be issues between members and ministry leaders continually. 

There were disagreements on how the church should respond to the global pandemic. There were disagreements on theological issues. There seemed to be a continual theme of disagreement. Their community had also been hit with a major storm and many families in their church community had lost their homes and loved ones.

Unfortunately, our friend’s experience is not an isolated experience. Sadly, conflict and crisis in the church is inevitable. The church is made up of redeemed sinners. No one is perfect, and conflict will come, no matter how hard we try to avoid it. 

In this article I will talk about: 

What Is Church Crisis Management?

In layman’s terms, church crisis management involves answering the questions of who, what, where, when, and how to get your church running as smoothly as possible following a crisis or conflict. This often means creating a living document that all church staff and members have access to. 

Internal Crisis In The Church

Sometimes, a crisis occurs amongst the members of your congregation. Whether it’s a marriage falling apart, a job loss, a death, sickness, or something else, you and your church family must be ready to meet the painful needs of those in your church family who are in crisis. 

When a crisis situation hits your church members it’s important that someone from the church leadership reaches out to them. You should go beyond just making a call or sending a text. When a church member is going through a crisis, someone from the church needs to show up. 

People learn quickly the difference between acquaintances, friends, and their church family during a crisis. Meet with them, pray with them, and do all you can to meet their needs. This might include organizing meal rotations or providing help around the home. If the family has children, have your children’s ministry leaders surround the children as well, bringing gifts or activities if needed. You could also offer childcare to help the parents. Do all you can to speak words of life and hope to them. 

Recently my own family went through some challenging times with our child in the hospital for an extended stay, and each life group within the church pooled their money together and sent a gift card for a meal delivery service. It was such a blessing to my family, and it really made us feel seen and cared for. 

Lastly, as a pastor, managing conflict and managing crises should not fall entirely on your shoulders. Your church will not grow if you are doing all the work yourself. As a pastor, your job is to train your congregation to be the church!

How To Deal With Conflict In The Church

Here are a couple of tips for dealing with conflict in your church or amongst your congregation. 

Confronting The Conflict 

If there is conflict, division, or fighting within the church, church leaders must take up the issue with that church member or members. The first interaction with them should be private, or in a one-on-one situation, if it’s appropriate. If that doesn’t work, take at least one or two other church leaders with you and discuss this with them in private. If the conflict still cannot be resolved, perhaps the question needs to be asked if the person or persons involved should still be part of the church. 

If you do not enjoy conflict, you are not alone. But confronting conflict head-on is the best way to handle conflict in the church. The longer a conflict simmers, the less likely it is that there will be a positive outcome at the end. This is why it’s so important to deal with church conflicts as soon as possible.

When conflicts arise amongst church members, some of the involved church members may begin to share their discontent with other members. This gossip cycle can be very damaging and cancerous in a church. Gossip can run wild though a church congregation. If you know of conflict happening in the church, don’t make the mistake of ignoring it.

Communication 

Communication is a huge aspect of Church life. I truly believe that communication is the absolute key to avoiding conflict. 

My friend, the pastor I mentioned earlier, told us that they had a few people leave the church after a rather large purchase was made. The church members were upset with how money was being spent and felt that the leadership was being irresponsible with the church money. They felt that there was no communication to the congregation prior to the purchase. 

Members may disagree with why church leadership makes certain decisions or spends money, but when they understand why the church does what it does, they are more apt to support decisions. When your leadership has decided on something big, it’s vital to have a process in place to share that information with staff, volunteers, and church members. 

Make sure to share the news before it hits the rumor mill and spreads like wildfire. It is much easier to control what is communicated on the front end than trying to clear the mess and rumors from the back end.

Crisis Outside The Church, And How The Church Should Respond

Natural disasters are becoming more frequent due to the effects of climate change. More and more we are hearing about fires and floods, hurricanes and tornadoes, blizzards, and drought. Natural disasters are another area of crisis that the local church can get involved with. So how does a church come up with a plan to respond to natural disasters?

Put Your Own Oxygen Mask On First!

You can’t help those in your community if your church is not thriving. If your building is falling apart, or the culture of your church is struggling, you need to resolve those issues first before you can help the broader community. 

Make sure your church is prepared to handle natural disasters. This means thinking and planning. Figure out what disasters are common in your church area. Once you’ve figured out what you’ll need in a disaster, it will be training time! Prepare and train your volunteers as needed. 

Inspire your congregation and explain how your church will respond to natural disasters. Start fundraisers to raise money to purchase extra supplies or resources. If you’re near a disaster zone, visit government shelters and learn what they’re doing. 

Open Your Doors

If you have a church building, you are incredibly blessed! What a resource you have, and what an amazing resource to bless others. Use it as much as you can to bless your community. 

For example, if many people in your community have lost their homes or are unable to stay in them, you can turn the sanctuary into a dormitory. You might purchase some sleeping bags or blankets to put on the pews or the floor. You can create privacy by getting curtains or dividers.

You can use classroom space to put up families with babies, people with disabilities, or others who need their own space. If you anticipate people will be there for a long time, you can create space for people to wash and dry their clothes.

The kitchen is another obvious place that can offer help. You might want to have a stock of non-perishable goods to whip up in an emergency. 

Both before and during natural disasters, let the community know that your building can be a muster point for separated families. In case of the loss of cell phone service and/or Wi-Fi, connect good old-fashioned landlines so that people can check in with their friends & family. 

Church buildings are often equipped with lots of space that they don’t use anymore. Here is your chance to use it for good!

Be The Church

Here is where we as a church provide a unique service. The emotional toll of a natural disaster can hit just as hard as the physical toll. If you have made your building a muster point, make sure your pastoral staff and/or your volunteer team arrive soon after an emergency happens. Invite other pastors in the area as well. Prayer is such a powerful tool in the face of crisis. 

Take advantage of social media. If your church has a Facebook group, use it to post alerts, warnings, and other helpful information that is relevant to your area. You can also use it to post encouraging scripture and prayers. 

World Vision gives some tips on how the local church can “be the church” during a crisis, and Samaritan’s Purse is a great organization for churches to partner with.

What Does The Bible Say About Conflict?

If conflict is unresolved it can begin to fester and grow. It can become cancerous in a church body and then eventually it can end with the church being in crisis mode. Offense and hurt that is not addressed can damage a church body, and cause division or even church splits. If the conflict is resolved quickly and handled correctly, it will lead to repentance, growth, and a new understanding of grace and forgiveness.

Obviously as church leaders, we want to have some biblical grounding in what we do about conflict. Here are some quick tips and scripture references. 

Don’t Make It Public Right Away

Matthew 18:15-17: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

Be Careful What You Say

Proverbs 15:18: “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.”

Proverbs 21:33: “Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.”

Colossians 4:6: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Be Quick To Resolve 

Proverbs 17:14: “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”

Ephesians 4:26: “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”

Matthew 5:25-26: “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

Be Quick To Forgive

Ephesians 4:31-32: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Colossians 3:13: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

No matter the crisis or conflict, it’s important to not stay silent. When you choose to stay silent or not address it, whether you meant to or not, you are communicating something quite loudly. You are saying that you’re not bold enough to make decisions, that you don’t care enough to change, or that you are too proud to hear others out. Be sure you and your team count the cost of saying and doing nothing in those times of crisis and conflict. 

The 4 Phases Of Crisis Management

Unfortunately, we can not predict when a crisis is going to happen, but we can be prepared! Preparing for a disaster is one of those things that is difficult to put at the top of the list when it comes to church priorities.

However, effective crisis management can save you time when every moment counts and can lay a good foundation for a quick response to an emergency or disaster.

Mitigate

Mitigation involves minimizing the amount of loss or harm caused by a risk or issue. This phase is where you want to do a lot of the planning and prevention. A well-laid-out plan should help minimize any challenges you will foresee. Think ahead to what crisis may arrive and what you can do to reduce these risks. Maybe you need to create a risk management team. Discuss strategies for supporting and communicating to church members or the local community when a crisis happens.

Prepare

Once you have created a crisis management plan, it should be reviewed and updated on an annual basis. Perhaps you want to test the crisis management team by creating mock crises or drills to practice effectively. This gives the team an idea of any important aspects you may have missed and provides a chance to correct them. Also, make sure the church is equipped with the right emergency equipment and emergency kits.

Respond

This is the phase where the crisis actually happens.This is the time where you figure out the best response. How is the communication being delivered? Who needs to be addressed? Is there conflict or crisis that needs to be confronted head-on? Remember to avoid the silence.

Recover

The recovery process can differ depending on what the crisis is. When the crisis is over, it’s time to shift the focus to rebuilding, which can be time-consuming and expensive. Having an effective crisis management plan will hopefully help the church get back to normal, but of course, it depends on the crisis. 

If it’s something that horrific that affects families or results in loss of life, it may take a long time to heal and for the church to move on. When the crisis is over, it is very important to review the crisis management plan to see if it was effective and take note of any flaws or things that should be done differently. 

Examples Of Church Crisis Plans 

Here are some resources related to creating an emergency plan or crisis plan for your church: 

  • US Disaster Preparedness: This is a quick easy read that can help you get some ideas going when creating a crisis plan. This is a good place to start if your church currently does not have a crisis plan in place. 
  • United Methodist Crisis Template: I love how this crisis plan even gives tips on what to say when dealing with the media. This is a brilliant idea as sometimes there are unfortunate circumstances that may happen when the media might want statements or updates for “boots on the ground’ situations. 
  • Sample Crisis Plan: This is actually a crisis plan from a Christian School but it has some great details and covers everything from natural disasters to simple accidents to deaths. 

Preparedness Is Key

As a church leader, you already have so much to be thinking about. Preparing for conflict or crisis is not enjoyable, but the more prepared you are, the better you can pastor and lead your people through the tough times that may come.

For more on how you can best manage your church, start here: Complete Guide To Church Management For Lead Pastors.

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Complete Guide To Church Management For Lead Pastors

Church management drives our places of worship to new levels of growth and outreach. According to this Gallup poll, 59% of people see outreach and volunteer opportunities as a major factor in deciding where to go and social events are important to 49% of people. Effective church management will give you the ability to keep first-time guests coming back to your church, improve your church’s growth, and ride out the rough patches we all go through.

I’m Lexie, and, if you can name a job in the church, I’ve probably worked at it in some capacity. In this guide, we will look at the broad strokes of church management and provide links to more in-depth articles on each topic. So, let’s get into it and start with the big question.

Here’s what I’ll cover:

What Is Church Management?

Church management is controlling or delegating everything that happens within a church. Some definitions of church management will exclude worship services, but your volunteers, from ushers to band, and your financial team, among others, all need to be managed before, during, and after services as well. 

While management does involve some direct control on the part of the church leader or head pastor, most management, and usually the best management, comes from assigning people into positions where they will be most effective. This is what I mean by delegation.

For instance, I grew up around stage and sound production my whole life because my mom was a piano player and assistant choir director. When I started working toward becoming the assistant youth pastor at our youth church, my youth pastor put me in charge of running sound and stage. He hardly asked about sound unless he wanted something specific, and we sounded great because I had a ton of experience.

The point is that management does not mean micromanagement. Use people you trust and who know what they are doing, and you will be more effective than trying to do everything yourself.

What Needs To Be Managed In A Church?

Everything! Managing your church from top to bottom is the key to growth and sustainability. Good management during a growth period can give you the edge to carry you through a lean period. Some areas, especially in smaller churches, can have overlapping requirements, so we’ll group the following management teams by areas of expertise or responsibility.

Property Management

Everything under this heading deals with the actual property of the church. People within these groups include maintenance workers, janitors, and project managers.

Facility Management

Facility management is the part of your team that covers the following areas:

  • Cleaning the building and grounds, such as the parking lot
  • Supplying the bathrooms and offices
  • Maintaining the church’s physical building through repair and general maintenance.

Small churches might employ an all-in-one handyman, but larger churches may need to consider an expanded team with a dedicated Facilities Manager

In addition to regular staff members, you might need specialists who you can call in occasionally. For instance, the megachurch where I worked had an elevator so disabled people could reach the balcony that could only be serviced by a licensed and insured elevator repairman.

Project Management

Church projects are varied but include:

  • Upgrading equipment and systems
  • Renovating church structures
  • Enhancing the church facilities.

Church projects might also include digital projects such as upgrading your church website, implementing presentation software, or setting up live streaming for your church services.

Here’s a brief overview of the steps in church project management is:

  1. Start the project by proposing the project plan and budget
  2. Finalize the budget through board approval, or through whatever process your denomination’s polity allows
  3. Work the project by coordinating contractors and volunteers
  4. Close the project by ensuring that the goals of the project have been met and all contractors and vendors have been paid
  5. Maintain your project to ensure that it keeps its value in years to come

Your church project manager should have a good background in networking and interpersonal skills. Project management involves dealing with both contractors and volunteers, so be sure to check out our in-depth guide on project management for churches.

Operations Management

Church operations management belongs here because your operations team will often be set apart from the spiritual leadership and will instead be focused on the day-to-day of keeping the lights on. Operations will coordinate the church board’s decisions with the departments that will fulfill them. In some churches, the legal department is part of operations.

Hard Management

In business, “hard management” is a style that follows strict rules and guidelines. Here, it is used to define the business side of church as opposed to the spiritual side. The business side has to follow tax codes, reporting methods, and recordkeeping guidelines.

Risk Management

Risks within churches usually fall into two categories. First is the legal risk associated with ensuring that your church is abiding by all tax laws. Some countries, like the US, make it very difficult to investigate churches and other charitable organizations, while other countries offer little protection at all. 

Second, and often unrecognized by most pastors I have worked with, are mandated reporter laws. These laws require that ongoing child or sexual abuse be reported to the police. These laws supersede the privilege of faith just as they supersede doctor-patient and lawyer-client privilege. Additionally, employing or allowing sexual predators to volunteer in the same areas as children can open up the church to liability.

Only a licensed attorney can give legal advice, so please seek out a lawyer concerning your church’s needs and concerns.

Finance Management

Finance management starts with your church’s Treasurer and budget committee. Due to the charitable organization status of most churches and the tax exemptions or reductions that come with it, your management style should be hardest around your finances.

A more in-depth look can be found in our article on church financial management.

Crisis Management

Crisis management is often found in action plans for various types of negative circumstances. Form a crisis management committee and ask questions about how to deal with natural disasters or allegations of impropriety among the church leadership. Brainstorm the various ways your church could need crisis management and develop plans to mitigate those disasters.

Records Management

Church records involve, but are not limited to:

  • Marriages
  • Baptisms
  • Christenings
  • Many more, depending on your denomination and services offered. 

These records are usually kept in Perpetuum due to their historical significance. Church records are how my family was traced back to 1600s England.

Beyond those important records, you will likely be responsible for tax information concerning your members. Some of your congregation may wish for a tax form showing their charitable contributions. Recordkeeping of this variety is made simpler these days with a wide range of church software which we will get into a little later in the article.

Learn more about records management in the church here.

Soft Management

Soft management is more people-focused and willing to accommodate individual preferences. The soft management part of your church is the spiritual side where you perform weddings, train volunteers, and reach out to your members.

Volunteer Management

Volunteers are our lifeline. From the business end, they lower costs and increase sustainability. From the spiritual end, they show the benefits of joining our church community.

A short summary of the volunteer management process goes a little like this:

  1. Recruiting Church Volunteers
    1. Ask For Help
    2. Conduct Background Checks & Screen For Legal Issues
    3. Get To Know Your Volunteers
    4. Lead From The Front
  2. Train Your Volunteers
  3. Care For Your Volunteers

Dig deeper in this article on church volunteer management.

Communications

Communication might be the single most important thing we do as pastors. 

We:

  • Preach from the pulpit
  • Negotiate prices on materials
  • Communicate church goals and ideas
  • Develop volunteers into leaders

We have more to say on this subject in this article on how to develop a church communications plan.

Member Management

Not every member becomes a volunteer or joins a leadership team. We cannot forget them as they will make up the bulk of our churches. If you don’t have the personnel to give everyone a personal call, many church software apps will allow you to track your members and even send messages to check-in when they miss service.

Event Management

Every church needs to have an event manager. No matter what kind of church you have, you run events. weddings, vacation bible school, passion plays, and more all fall under the umbrella of event management.

Get the breakdown on how to throw successful events in this article on church event management.

What Is Church Administration?

Church administration is quite simply the structure that organizes people into the management team and ministry leader teams defined in the above section.

Church administration usually starts with a church board or a bishop, depending on your polity. Guidance is usually given through a denominational board or synod above them. People within church administration roles can be given a salary at larger churches, but most churches reserve a salary for the lead pastor.

Church administration is the business side, mostly. They deal with the “hard management” issues so that the clergy can deal with the “soft management” issues. The lead pastor, however, usually deals with both as the head of the clergy and the president of the board. As always, individual churches will have differences based on their bylaws and the bylaws of their denomination.

Church Management Software

Church management, in the past, did not scale well with large numbers. My grandfather, with his parsonage of less than 50, handled all of the paperwork himself. The megachurch where I worked had an entire 4-office suite dedicated to finances alone.

Current advances in software, however, make it much easier to track, manage, reach, and follow up with your members no matter the size of your church. Let’s take a closer look.

What Is Church Management Software?

Church management software (ChMS) refers to the tools used by churches to computerize their member database, their giving receipts, their event calendar, and many other services that the church provides. Frequently, this software comes in the form of a mobile app for the church member, and a desktop application for the church administration.

Benefits Of Church Management Software

Church management systems not only give you the convenience of real-time tracking of your budget, volunteers, events, and more, it can let you print off your tax reports with a push of a button and print statements for your members with another push. When it comes to the benefits of bringing your church into the software age, you will not be disappointed.

Types Of Church Management Software

General Church Management Solutions

These articles analyze user-friendly church management software options from a general management standpoint. Keep track of member data, finances, attendance, volunteers, events, improve and automate management workflows and processes, and more.

Facility Management Software

This type of software will give you the functionality you need to stay on top of your building and facilities.

Find more info at the following link: Best Church Facility Management Software

Communications Software

The latest in communication software can be found at the links below. Send mass emails to your congregation, follow up with new members, leverage text messaging capabilities, and keep in touch with your church members.

Financial Management Software

Since financial stewardship is so important, we have a number of articles to help you find the best fit for you and your church. In addition to keeping track of church finances and assisting with general fundraising, many platforms also enable online giving for donations and tithes.

Church Management: The Takeaways

Church management is a wonderful and complex undertaking that can define the difference between a growing church and a stagnant one. One common ingredient in all of these different aspects of management is information, so bookmark this page to keep your source of information nearby!

Use this article as your jumping-off point to refine and develop the parts of your management team that need help. As always, comment below for further discussion!

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Church Project Management: Importance, Process, & Benefits

Every growing church finds itself in need of new projects to expand its space, improve its technology, or facilitate community outreach. From larger churches to the smallest, church project management is a vital part of being effective in your mission to be “the Light of the World.” 

According to this Axios article, spending on church projects, specifically in the construction industry, is at an all-time low. That article also notes that some of the decline is due to church closings and the availability of those buildings on the market. Still, an old building will almost certainly need renovation and updating.

I’m Lexie Schmidt, and I have worked in a church of thousands and a church of dozens and plenty of churches in between. Let my experience help guide you through the essentials of church project management. 

Here’s what I’ll cover:

What Is Church Project Management?

Church project management is defined as the steps a church takes to complete a task that is focused on self-improvement. Think of church projects as infrastructure upgrades. They add more seats, install new screens or lights, upgrade computers or applications, or anything else that makes it easier to preach, worship, and reach as many people as possible.

The most difficult and intensive projects for a church involve construction, whether in a new building or renovating existing buildings, so this guide will focus more on construction projects. In the digital age, however, projects such as building your website, creating a live-streaming platform, or implementing church management software are just as important, if not more so. Determining which type of project is best falls on your project manager.

A church project manager is frequently one of the clergy in smaller churches, but larger churches may hire a dedicated manager. The people who work on a project may be volunteers, but many times you may need to work with contractors. Most large projects will likely be a mix of both. When the megachurch I worked at built its larger building, contractors did the heavy machinery tasks and technical work, but church staff and volunteers did a large portion of the manual labor.

Church project management rewards your church by making it easier to work and making your building more appealing to the people you are trying to reach. Many times, church projects don’t provide a direct, spiritual benefit to your people at first. Your community and members likely won’t receive the benefits until after the project has finished.

What Does a Project Manager Do In A Church?

illustration of a megaphone church project management
Communication is a key part of a project manager’s role within a church.

Project managers need to be the best communicators in your church. Most communication will happen between church leaders and members who share a common vision and common goals. 

However, projects can bring in contractors who do not necessarily share those ideas. Your project manager needs to be able to communicate the needs and goals of the project with people who may not even share your religious beliefs.

If you find communication failing, try the steps outlined in our church communications plan article. I recommend that article no matter what since communication is so important.

In addition, project managers should be organized, punctual, and high-energy. On longer projects, such as building a new sanctuary or remodeling the current one, enthusiasm can flag among your volunteers, so a project manager who can keep morale up is essential. 

Organization, of course, is needed above all. Without organization, you will have everyone from contractors to volunteers standing around doing nothing. Organization also makes sure those contractors get paid.

A note on punctuality. In all my other articles, I have never mentioned this as a requirement for managers or leaders. Once again, contact with outside contractors causes this. Contractors get paid for their time, whether they are actively working or not. 

Contractors will arrive at the beginning of their workday and start their clock. If circumstances don’t allow work to continue, they will continue billing for their time whether or not your project manager is there to fix the problem. Punctuality saves your church money.

Difference Between Church Events And Church Projects

Church projects and events are linked in many ways and have some elements of overlap, but they have distinct purposes and outcomes. In simplest terms, projects serve the church itself, while events serve the community.

As noted above, church projects primarily serve to improve the church and your ability to accomplish your church’s mission. Church events, instead, improve the community through outreach, service, and, frequently, fun. A wedding is an event that improves the lives of the families who are gathered, but it is not a project that improves the church.

Another way to think of the differences is to consider the flow of resources. Events will usually double as fundraisers as well. Vacation Bible School can charge a small fee per child which will generate some cash flow and educate your community’s children with Biblical concepts. Replacing your old pews with new theater seating will cost money and improve your sanctuary, so it is a project.

Knowing the differences between church projects and events, if you’re in the right place, keep reading! If not, you can read more about church event management here.

The Church Project Management Process

The process of church project management might feel daunting at first, but this section will break it down into simple steps that any church project manager can use to find success. Remember that there is no amount of note-taking that can be considered excessive. In my personal experience, a three-ring binder and a hole punch are a project manager’s best friends for implementing the project.

Step 1: Starting The Project

Every church project starts at the top. Depending on your type of church, your church board, your lead pastor, or your bishop will decide which of the church’s needs are most important and will be filled next. They will determine the budget, the time frame, and the scope of the project before any work begins.

The church project manager will then take those instructions and initiatives and develop a plan for how to accomplish the project within the constraints provided by their church leadership team. Determining where costs can be trimmed through the use of volunteers, through previous relationships with contractors, or through business owners in the church needs to happen in this phase. Finding out that a church member owns a demolition company does not help after the walls are already coming down.

Finally, the project manager should submit their completed plan back to the church leadership for final approval before taking any action. Most churches have limited resources and cannot afford mistakes that cost tens of thousands of dollars. That number might seem large, but building expenses are always higher than you think. An ounce of caution in the planning phase can save thousands in the execution of the plan.

Step 2: Finalizing The Budget

After the plan secures approval from the leadership, the project manager needs to finalize the budget through negotiating contracts, recruiting volunteers, and sourcing materials. Once every part of the plan has been covered, the project manager should bring the finalized budget to the church leaders for approval.

When setting the budget, especially with building projects, the church might need to take out a loan to cover some shortfalls. Most churches do this, and the Treasurer will be able to secure a loan if the church has a good credit score. Yes, your church, as a nonprofit corporation, has its own credit score and the ability to take out loans in its own name. Your church’s income will determine the size of the loans you can take, just like anyone else. The megachurch where I worked typically took out loans of $5,000,000 at a time, but the smaller churches would normally max out around $100,000 or so per loan.

Expert tip: The final note on budgeting is that you will overrun your budget. Problems come up, things break, and unforeseen issues slow things down. For that reason, allocate at least 20% above what you think you need just to start. I have never seen a project come in less than that. The largest overrun I have seen was nearly double the budget. Be smart, and have a contingency plan for those issues. The worst that can happen is that you have extra money at the end if everything goes smoothly.

Step 3: Working The Project

Before your project can begin actual work, your local government inspectors will probably want to visit the worksite and approve the changes to your building and grounds before giving a construction permit. This step cannot be skipped, otherwise, major fines and possible lawsuits will eat your entire budget and leave nothing for what you need to get done.

When your permits are granted, be sure to display them according to the instructions either found on the permits themselves or given separately by the inspectors. As the project goes on, inspectors will show up, often unannounced, to inspect your team’s work and ensure that everything is being built to code. 

Building codes change over time, so inspections during remodeling frequently find safety issues that must be dealt with before construction can continue. This is normally the largest source of budget overruns in older buildings.

Expert tip: For new construction, be sure your contractors have fully up-to-date licenses and training. The most common overruns in new construction are redoing work from contractors who have not learned the new building codes. You may also find a contractor is cutting corners with materials or techniques. Be sure that your contracts include the ability to fire them for negligent behavior revealed by private or government building inspectors.

Volunteers will usually not have formal training in construction. For the same reasons as above, they should be supervised by someone who does have that training, although most inspectable work, by law, can only be done by licensed and bonded contractors. This work includes electrical, plumbing, fabrication, erection of structural elements, and so on. Generally, if a job can be performed by a union member, it must be.

Anytime a worksite has dangerous equipment or heavy machinery, the site should be considered closed unless a person goes through a check-in process and wears proper protective gear. Most contractors take care of this on their own. Your church will be responsible for the safety of your volunteers.

A comprehensive project planning phase shines here. A church project manager who accounts for as many details as possible propels the project forward even in the face of the inevitable setbacks.

Step 4: Closing The Project

Each project will have set goals according to the plan that the manager set in Step 1. As the project nears fulfilling those goals, the project manager is responsible for ensuring the work was completed correctly and, if so, paying the contractors and thanking the volunteers. Each step within the plan should be completed before victory is declared.

The project, if it involves construction, cannot be completed until the final inspection. Be sure that your contractors and volunteers are still available until that inspection is complete.

The project manager should write a final report on the project detailing the highs and lows of the process. This report tells future managers or refreshes the current manager’s memory, of who worked well in which areas and who should be avoided in the future. Detailed notes of what went wrong in the inspections allow the leadership in older buildings to know what to look out for in future projects.

Step 5: Maintenance

Many projects will require some amount of maintenance. An expansion to your sanctuary means more cleaning and more seating. An upgrade to your sound system means more technical expertise is needed in each service. Upgrading your computers or adding a church network can mean creating an IT department.

These continuing costs should be considered before starting a project. New things are only better if you can pay for them. Some projects, though, pay for themselves through saving on electricity or heating. 

For instance, new, high-efficiency windows in your church can save hundreds of dollars in utility payments every year. For this reason, a project that reduces continuing costs should be done before a project that increases them.

The Importance and Benefits Of Project Management For Churches

Church project management is one of the most important skills you can develop to grow your church. Here are some benefits: 

  • Successful project managers deliver new and upgraded experiences, both for your staff and your congregation. 
  • Completed projects establish good relationships in your community. 
  • Successful projects foster deeper bonds among your members who volunteer. 

Beyond the obvious benefits of a remodel, a new building, upgraded equipment, or whatever the purpose of your project is, church projects provide benefits that may not be immediately clear.

For instance, adding or expanding a kitchen for your homeless ministry will also provide a basecamp for team members to relax and eat during other events or projects. My own experience has seen many of the contractors start going to our church by seeing how we work and treat each other with love and kindness.

The possibilities of how you use the fruits of your projects are as endless as your own imagination. Therefore, the benefits are endless as well. With every project, try to think of at least three ways that you can use the upgrades. As I wrote in the budgeting step, most churches don’t have much money. Your ideas will make every penny count.

Tips & Best Practices For Church Project Management

illustration of a hard hat and tools for church project management
There’s lots of tools to help you keep your church projects moving along.

Let me share a few of the best ways to keep your church projects organized and moving along. You will learn your own tips and tricks as you gain experience as a local church project manager, so always take notes, and never be afraid to ask the professionals questions that will help you do your job better.

  • Don’t hide your plan. While not everyone needs a full copy of the entire binder, every step of construction or finishing or maintenance should have a clear view of what is expected of them for their goal to be completed. Photocopies of a few pages combined into a packet and given to the foreman of a job will usually be enough.
  • Volunteers should have clear responsibilities. In every project, I usually have at least one volunteer who wants to be in charge of everything. Sometimes, I was that volunteer, which led to me joining the leadership team and filling the assistant youth pastor role. The problem is that, before I worked my way up, I was in the way by making the roles unclear. For my part, I was trying to help and doing it the wrong way. Others I’ve worked with just wanted some of the glory for themselves. Defined roles in a project prevent confusion, accidents, and mistrust.
  • Always pay your contractors promptly. Sometimes, you will have a dispute with a contractor over bad work. Don’t pay them until that dispute is resolved. In all other cases, pay them by the due dates outlined in your contract. It will foster good relationships and make them more likely to work with you again in the future.
  • Source your materials like a business. This is a repeat from the budget section, but it saves more money than everything else combined. Your church, as long as it is a 501c(3) corporation, is just as much of a business as the big home improvement store you currently shop at. They have suppliers, and you can too. Don’t pay the retail markup prices. Take advantage of your business status, plus the suppliers still have to honor tax-exempt cards, too.

Church Project Management Software

Volunteer management in church projects is very similar to church events. Church management software can usually double as project management tools. This software can help you monitor progress, set milestones, and aid church communications.

Church Project Management: In Conclusion

Successful church projects start with good project managers. The tips and steps within this guide will provide you with a solid base on which to build a leader into that manager. The benefits of projects are plenty, and the worst problems arise through poor planning. Plan well, build well, finish well.

If you have any questions, comments, or your own tips to share, comment below.

I’m Lexie and happy projects!

Related Read: Young Disciples: Turning A Youth Group Into A Youth Church

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Article How To

How To Conduct Church Financial Management + Best Practices

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a pastor feeling overwhelmed about financial management within your church. Maybe you’re considering hiring a finance professional, but maybe this costs more money than you want to spend, especially if you’re a small church without a large admin team.

You’re not alone. I’m Lexie Schmidt, and I’ve been involved at all levels of church volunteering and management. My experience in ministry can help guide you through the common pitfalls of managing your church’s financial health.

Managing your church’s finances doesn’t have to be as complicated as it seems. Whether you’re trying to improve current practices or starting a new church plant, these tips and resources will help you get started.

How To Manage Your Church’s Finances

In many ways, church finance is like finance for any company: the goal is for funds to be greater than expenses. But rather than selling a product to earn money, churches get most of their funds through individual donations—about 81 percent, according to a recent national study by Lake Institute on Faith & Giving. This categorizes them as a nonprofit, along with other requirements such as serving the public, and using funds towards a mission or cause.

One common misconception is that a nonprofit organization can’t make, or hold onto, money year-over-year. Just like for-profit companies, nonprofits are expected to maintain cash reserves for emergencies and build those reserves in anticipation for large projects and expenditures, such as renovations, upgrades, and other projects. 

How To Create A Church Budget

The biggest part of financial management is creating and maintaining a budget. A budget tells you how much you can spend by tracking how much you have coming in. Making a budget gives you your greatest tool in being an effective steward of your church’s finances. 

Budgeting can be a large task in practice but includes two main parts:

Part 1: Evaluating Current Financial Health

Your initial evaluation is vital to good bookkeeping, but it can be broken into simple steps.

  • Using past records, you can estimate what funds and expenses you will have for the upcoming year. 
  • Will you be in debt, or come close? If so, what is costing you the most? What is the greatest source of funds, and can a simple fundraiser cover the shortfall? Do you need a short-term or long-term loan to hold you over?
  • Ideally, you want to be able to cover your expenses and have money left over to save. If your tithes and offerings are not enough, consider whether new programs or events can generate the revenue you need.
  • If your church is running any expensive programs, they may need to be put on hold until the financial situation is more stable. This is always the hardest part. Sometimes, the programs we hold most dear are the ones that cost the most. Be willing to cut them until your finances improve.

Part 2: Determining Short- And Long-Term Goals

Financial goals should be specific and actionable. If you want to increase donations for the next year, aim for a certain percentage. If there’s a trip or project you want to fund, figure out how much it will cost. Compare these goals to your budget and see how much money can be allocated to fundraising and campaigning.

This, too, can be simplified into a few, easy steps.

  • Compare your past revenue and expenditures over the past several years. Generally, five years is enough. Use those figures to determine your percentage of growth or loss year-over-year.
  • Take those percentages and project your possible finances over the next five years. Look for shortfalls and overages in your projections.
  • If you have shortfalls over the next year or two, start identifying immediate remedies like fundraising through church events or small business loans in emergency situations. Shortfalls toward the end of your projections can be fixed by setting short-term goals for growth through outreach and community involvement.
  • Conversely, if you find yourself with extra finances, you should set short-term goals of saving a certain percentage, usually 10-15% of income, for emergencies, and begin to identify your areas of greatest need for church projects.
  • Long-term goals involve what comes after those five-year projections. While a short-term goal may involve upgrading your HVAC system, a long-term goal might be purchasing or building a new sanctuary. Think 10-20 years into the future as you start a savings plan or other financial concerns beyond your current needs.

Special Tax Considerations For Churches

Like other nonprofits, most of your funds will come from tax-exempt donations. Tax-exempt status comes with some rules:

  • the organization must primarily be used for religious or charitable work
  • the organization cannot promote any political agenda
  • the net earnings do not primarily benefit a single person
  • the organization’s agenda must not be illegal

Churches are not exempt from filing annual tax information returns. The specific guidelines can be found in IRS Publication 1828 where you can learn the ins and outs of US church taxes. Canada is slightly different, though. Religious charities, the legal term for all religious organizations in Canada, do not have to fill out the publicly accessible portion of the tax information return. They must still complete the government-accessible portion.

In the US, though, tax audits are nearly impossible for the IRS to initiate without evidence of malfeasance from a whistleblower, and those audits can only happen every 5 years unless malfeasance is found in an audit. This means that the IRS can usually only see a church’s books through their employees and what is reported on the tax forms. The IRS is, by law, unable to help churches track their finances.

Best Practices For Church Financial Management

Church finances can sometimes be seen as the ugly duckling of our business. Just like the ugly duckling, though, proper budgeting and management can turn your finances into a beautiful swan. Here are some of the best practices for growing a healthy budget.

Structuring Financial Oversight

Without government help tracking financial information, churches have to be vigilant about monitoring funds and putting safeguards in place to prevent losses. You can do this through a structure of checks and balances. In most churches, finances can be handled with a combination of the following elements. 

  • The board
  • The treasurer
  • The finance committee
  • The audit committee

Your church’s board of trustees (or board of directors) is ultimately responsible for financial oversight, but normal management tasks will be delegated to a finance committee chaired by the church treasurer.

Ideally, your treasurer and people on the finance committee will have relevant experience with budgeting and accounting. At the very least, however, look for people who have a gift for numbers and handling money. 

The finance committee’s duties include:

  • Creating policies
  • Managing funds
  • Keeping financial records

This means they hold almost all control over the church’s finances. The audit committee acts as a power check—they review financial statements for accuracy and make sure that policies are actually being followed.

Improving Financial Stewardship

Faithful stewardship is a congregation-wide practice that should be implemented in every area of life, but financial stewardship is the finance committee’s responsibility. Ensuring stewardship of a church’s finances means using internal controls to track and monitor funds.

Some common methods for monitoring your finances are:

  • Using church management software as outlined in our next section.
  • Keeping good books by recording all income and expenses promptly
  • Ensure that cash from offerings pass through as few hands as possible
  • Always pay with checks or bank cards linked to the church’s account
  • Secure the passwords to your church’s banking and business accounts

By being careful about who has access to your church’s money, both physically and digitally, you can more easily identify where funds have been misplaced or misused.

We have already talked about keeping and reviewing financial records as a practice among board and committee members, but most funds originate from church members. This is where stewardship is often overlooked.

Donations are most vulnerable at collection, because they haven’t been included in reports yet. Luckily, there are many easy ways to keep track of them:

  • Have more than one person present when counting offerings
  • Store offerings securely
  • Provide envelopes for cash offerings
  • Use a secure platform for digital offerings
  • Encourage recurring pay

These measures not only protect offerings from theft, but some can actually increase donations. Many people want to donate but forget or don’t have cash, so you can offer options like digital giving or automatic recurring payments to members of the congregation who might be interested.

Use Church Management Software

Keeping track of all those numbers might be difficult, but the right church management software can help. Church management software is designed to make administration more efficient by putting several tools in one place. 

While specific software programs have different specialties, generally they include:

  • Attendance and membership trackers
  • Financial management tools
  • Communication aids
  • Event and volunteer organizers
  • Website builders

You might have to shop around, but investing in the right software is an act of financial stewardship on its own. For finance-specific software, try church finance software or church accounting software.

Get Started With Church Financial Management

Still having trouble? Whether your church’s finances are just a mess or starting from scratch with a church plant sounds too overwhelming, it might be time to consider hiring a financial consultant or accountant. Keep an eye out for one of the many specifically Christian-based organizations dedicated to helping churches too.

I’m Lexie, and I hope you’ve learned something as you have read this guide. If you’ve implemented successful financial management tactics at your church, tell us about it! And if you’re starting a new church, be sure to check out our article on other problems that can arise in church planting.

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