Small Church Pastor and Thank You Notes

In a personal file I have a valuable collection of encouragement notes filled with “thank you” and appreciation, I have collected from over forty years of ministry (I started young). These notes are read from time to time for a jolt of personal joy from remembering the event and the person who wrote the card or note. I have a separate file of notes or letters written by critics or complainers, in comparative size, it is small. I never read them again; because most of them lack the pain, they previously carried.
No doubt about it, the thank you note will be read more than once and still treasured. A thank you note can be written to a volunteer who put together a special occasion. A handwritten thank you note expresses faithfulness, loyalty or hard work.

A THANK YOU NOTE WILL ENCOURAGE A GOOD VOLUNTEER TO BE THE BEST VOLUNTEER

If I enjoy receiving a handwritten thank-you card – it must be true, others enjoy receiving a handwritten thank-you card. If we wrote, more thank you cards and expressed appreciation, we may see a decrease in criticism and complaints. Pastor, we set the atmosphere!

GOD GAVE A GIFT OF 86,400 SECONDS TODAY. HAVE YOU USED ONE TO SAY “THANK YOU?”
–William Arthur Ward

So, let me begin. Thank you, pastor, for reading this brief blog post today. Thank you, for being a man or woman of prayer. Thank you for preaching the Word of God each Sunday. Thank you for your care, love and concern in your pastoral role. Thank you from my heart, for the sacrifices you have made. Thank you, Pastor, for keeping your family first. Thank you, Pastor, for living holy, modest, and revering God. Thank you, Pastor, for your role in the community, your smile and prayers.
Thank you, Pastor, for being a pastor.

Let us get our Thank you note written. Here are some ideas:
1. Thank you for being a friend to the Pastor and Spouse.
2. I know you pray and thank you for keeping your Pastor in your prayers.
3. Thank you for your volunteer work as a Nursery Worker – I know it is not easy giving up a Sunday. Morning Worship Service but YOU are making a difference in the lives of people.
4. Thank you, Youth Leader, I appreciate your leadership and enjoy spending time with you.
5. Thank you, greeters, for your friendly smile, warm welcome and firm handshake every morning, the first 90 seconds a first time visitor comes to our church will cause many of them to return.
6. Thank you, worship team, for practicing often and setting the atmosphere of worship. I could not do it without you.
7. Thank you, (elderly person), for your faithfulness over the past (30) years, I am personally encouraged to keep the faith because of you.

Well, you get the idea; in fact, it may not be a bad idea to write a thank-you card each week or every two weeks. It would do wonders for your spirit and for the spirit of the church. Pray for the person as you write the card, asking God for the spirit of encouragement to envelop them. Thank you cards are inexpensive but are invaluable in encouraging another. Go ahead and write a Thank You card now.

Copyright by Jim Laudell. Materials may not be copied, reproduced or distributed without the written permission of the author. You may share on Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media while giving credit to the author. Do not construe this post as medical, legal or professional advice.

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Small Church Pastor and Church Attendance

After many years of ministry, the weak excuses people give for lack of faithfulness, attendance and loyalty still bother me. Church is family and when one is missing from the table, you notice. Please, understand, it is not about breaking a record attendance; we are past bragging about how many we had in morning worship but a real pastor grieves when needy people are absent from the house of God.

I found this humorous (but painfully true) letter to a pastor:

Dear Pastor:
You often stress attendance at worship as being very important for a Christian, but I think a person has a right to miss Sunday worship now and then. I think every person ought to be excused for the following reasons and the number of times indicated:

* Christmas (Sunday before or after for traveling purposes)
* New Year (Sometimes the party last too long)
* Easter (We have to be away for holidays)
* July 4 (National holiday)
* Labor Day (Need to get away again)
* Memorial Day (Visit family and BBQ together)
* Spring Break (Kids need break)
* School Opens (One last summer fling)
* Family Reunions (wife’s and mine).
* 2 Sundays for sleeping in (Because Saturday night activities
* Deaths in Family (Average two per year)
* Anniversary (Second honeymoon)
* Sickness (One per family member)
* Business Trips (A must)
* Vacation (Three weeks)
* Bad Weather (Ice, snow, rain, sometimes-just clouds)
* Ball games (6 per season)
* Unexpected Company (Cannot walk out and leave them)
* Time changes (spring ahead; fall back)
* Specials on TV (Super Bowl, World Series, etc.)

Pastor that leaves two Sundays per year. Therefore, you can count on us to be in church on the fourth Sunday in February and the third Sunday in August—unless providentially hindered.

Sincerely, a faithful member*

It is true many millennials feel one morning worship service a month is church faithfulness but we need so much more. Going to the gym once a month is not giving me the results I want. Eating healthy once a month will not give me the health I need.
Maybe, just maybe, we need to examine why we have the church and endeavor to teach more often on the WHY of the church. Does going to church make a difference in the life of a believer? One thing is sure; not attending church makes a difference in the life of a believer.
I was reading Acts 2:42-47 and found several reasons the early church gathered, not once a week, but daily. We may not meet daily but one thing I noticed, when the saints met daily, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Multiplication and attendance mesh. The more the early church met together – the more salvations occurred. The growth of the early church and faithfulness of the early believer interlocked. Now I realize they did not have a church building, but they met together regularly.
Some believers go to church for the wrong reasons but God designed a blueprint for the early church. Adults need to see this, teenagers need to know this and young adults need to learn this. Examine the early church culture, according to Acts 2:42-27, the biblical reason for church attendance, although not comprehensive, explains a biblical foundation for regular worship together. Read the biblical passage above and notice the essential points of church attendance.

I need SOLID TEACHING –a regular examination of the beliefs, doctrines and experiences of the apostles.
I need SPIRITUAL FELLOWSHIP –we need each other. While one is up the other may be down but we lift each other through fellowship.
I want to partake in COMMUNION–the regular partaking of communion, the bread and the cup, “this do in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. This communion portrayed the common union they shared through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
I need CORPORATE PRAYER–yes, you can pray at home and should but there is power in praying together. “Prayer” is cited in Acts 1, 2 and 3 as a regular and common occurrence in the early church.
I want ACCOUNTABILITY–living in a body of believers brings personal accountability for my actions, words and life. Church is my insurance policy against drifting into dangerous waters, my place for repentance, correction and direction.
I want to hear TESTIMONIES–sharing personal stories of God’s divine intervention bring faith and tenacity into the lives of the hearers. We often select one or two who can give a clear testimony of God’s amazing grace. Often, a testimony can enhance the worship service and the message.
I want to CARE FOR ONE ANOTHER–this is huge. When one part of the body hurts, we all hurt together. This past Christmas our church gave a struggling family a sizable financial gift to a family of seven, who suffered through a difficult year, they continue to be a blessing to our church.
I want to be included in DISTRIBUTION–missions, the widow’s fund, feeding the poor, filling backpacks with school supplies for needy children, serving the elderly in nursing homes and assisted care units, are all a part of distribution that can only happen within a body of people.
I like to SERVE JOYFULLY–fixing a meal, workday at the church, filling gift bags for children’s church and much more gives much more in return than what we give.
I love to GIVE–church provides a place for me to give my tithes and offerings for the work of God. Even though it is a command in scripture, “bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse,” it is much more a joy to see how God multiplies the little we give to accomplish the greater good.
I love PRAISING GOD WITH OTHERS–the music, the worship time, prayer time and intentional opportunities in the service allow us to praise God together. Hearing the voices of others, praising God, encourage me to praise God.
I believe in INTENTIONAL EVANGELISM–the church is an excellent source of evangelism as men and women, teenagers and children bring their family and friends, to hear a gospel message and respond. The call for salvation declared through the local church is God’s plan and it happens, right where people live.

I cannot wait for church Sunday.

*Letter to Pastor contributed by Phyllis Traugher

Copyright by Jim Laudell. Materials may not be copied, reproduced or distributed without the written permission of the author. You may share on Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media while giving credit to the author. This post should not be construed as medical, legal or professional advice.

The Small Church Pastor and the Holidays

One thing is for sure about Christmas – it comes around every year. There are times Christmas holidays can play havoc on the calendar. A dinner, family gatherings, local events, church programs, shopping, cooking, giving presents and much, much more. But there may be some common sense ways to enjoy the holidays without ending up in the ER from “December overload.”

Keep Your Calendar Handy. There is not a doubt the holidays are hectic, so make it easier on yourself by comparing your calendar with your wife’s calendar. Our department leaders meet the week before Thanksgiving and synchronize our church calendars. Most times and dates are set a month ago but with school events, local events and family schedules, but there may be some late changes to the December calendar. The Key Word is Flexible.

Change Your Morning Routine. This may not work for everyone but personally, I like getting in the office by 5:00 or at the latest, 6:00 in the morning to write, pray, to read my Bible and to take a peek at my calendar for the day. My home is close, so I slip back to the house about 9:00, for breakfast and a cup of coffee with my wife. This is our “talk time,” which is important as family events seem to “pop up” quickly, especially since three of our grandchildren celebrate birthdays during the month of December. The Key Word is Communicate

Enjoy the Moment. A small church Pastor must plan personal time by selecting a day that seems to be a light schedule to take a moment to enjoy the Christmas lights, have a date night with your wife, or a short break at your favorite coffee shop. Grab a book to read for thirty minutes, spend more time at the gym or call an old friend to wish him, Merry Christmas, are some other ideas. Hug your grandkids, tell stories and make memories, and enjoy the moment. The Key Word is Relax.

Endeavor to be Spiritually Sensitive. As a small church Pastor, I am painfully aware of the busyness of the season but there are numerous people who suffer from anxiety issues, depression, frustrations, family issues, sickness, and financial stress during the holidays. Jesus is the Reason for the Season and we must be spiritually sensitive to families who are hurting and the elderly who are lonely, the list goes on. The small church Pastor may be needed more during the holidays than at any other time of the year, plan your sermons to bring encouragement and healing to the hurting and hopeless. We are not called to simply pray for people but pray with people. Care, concern, and comfort are necessary during the holiday season. Let God use you as you go about the community and lead people to lean upon the arms of Jesus. The Key Word is Prayerful.

God bless ALL our small church pastors – all of heaven is behind you!
Copyright by Jim Laudell. Materials may not be copied, reproduced or distributed without the written permission of the author. You may share on Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media while giving credit to the author. This post should not be construed as medical, legal or professional advice.

The Small Church Pastor and Tomorrow

Several months ago I gathered every young adult in our rural church and asked them one question, “What will this church look like in seven years?” “In seven years your  children will be teenagers and 10% – 20% of the church will pass away or move away.” We were reminded by reports, “10% of United States churches will close.”

 

Tomorrow increasingly became important to us.

 

One middle-aged woman commented, “We shouldn’t concern ourselves about the future, God will take care of that, we must take care of today.” The statement bothered me, God does take care of today and tomorrow, however, scripture cautions and duty demands us to prepare for tomorrow.
With the input of our young adults, we developed a seven-year plan for teaching, reaching and growing in our rural church. When Joshua crossed over the Jordan River, God commanded, place 12 stones on the inside the Jordan and the outside of the Jordan, as a testimony to future generations. (Joshua 4:6-7). We intended, by the grace of God to create a testimony for future generations.

 

We taught our young adults, leadership principles, such as communication, relationships, determination, and giving. Our young adults set up and clean up in the fellowship hall for various gatherings, they served Thanksgiving meals to the homeless and poor, they volunteered for open positions and gave to several projects. IF YOU DON’T TEACH IT – THEY WON’T REACH IT
We planned a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University program in a large room of the local civic center inviting other young adults to come. The results would be twofold, we would gain information about finances and meet other young adults struggling with the same issues, for the purpose of introducing them to Jesus Christ and to invite them to our church. IF YOU DON’T GET OUT OF THE BOX–THOSE WHO LIVE OUT OF THE BOX WON’T RESPOND.
We created a young adult dinner for fellowship and brainstorming on vision, purpose and planning our outreach calendar, (we desired a regional church instead of a rural church). We became partners with the local school and created ministries to area children. Our Bible Quiz teams grew, almost doubled, when we invited the community to take part. (We chose Bible Quiz to develop a discipleship for future generations). IF YOU ARE NOT EXTERNALLY FOCUSED YOU WILL BE INTERNALLY FOCUSED.
We became more interwoven, instead of compartmentalized. Our children’s groups incorporated the elderly, our young adults and elderly served together, side by side, in various outreaches, fellowships, and ministries. Just like Nehemiah did when they rebuilt the wall, “I even set the people after their families.” (Nehemiah 4:13). IF YOU ARE NOT INTERWOVEN YOU WILL BECOME COMPARTMENTALIZED.

Prayer groups began prayer before every morning service, asking for God’s help and for the Holy Spirit to move in our church and in our community. Even though the group has been small at times, it definitely is one of the most important things we do on a weekly basis.  IF YOU DON’T PRAY ABOUT IT – IT WON’T HAPPEN.
A disclaimer may be necessary:  this took months – not weeks and two families left because the church was changing. Yes, it was, no longer intrinsic but extrinsic. Our missions, benevolence and outreach finances grew, our community outreach to schools, the needy, and the poor expanded. Instead of people asking, “What is the church doing for me?” A good majority of the congregation asked, “What am I doing for God?” This is difficult, not magical and not “bought in” by everyone but it’s part of the seven-year projection. The wins have been substantial and we have just started. It is still a work in progress and may not work for everyone but we are still trying to influence this region for God.

 
Copyright by Jim Laudell. Materials may not be copied, reproduced or distributed without the written permission of the author. You may share on Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media while giving credit to the author. This post should not be construed as medical, legal or professional advice.

The Small Church Pastor and Outreach

When it comes to outreach, it tends to be a no-brainer for the small church pastor. We know we should; we want to and we see the needs. Reaching out to the community includes two directions. Event Outreach or Relation Outreach. Event Outreach tends to “make a splash,” with a gospel singing, a fun-filled children’s day or a partnership with a public school. Often, the expense and the work involved make these events “once or twice a year.”
The other, Relation Outreach, is on a personal level. Giving groceries to a needy family, supplying needy items to a family whose home has burned, or carrying a snack bag into the ICU waiting room for wearied family members. Some churches have provided a Thanksgiving meal to a needy family or supplied Christmas gifts to a poverty-stricken family.

 
Both outreaches are what I call, “seed planting.” There may not be quick results but the influence is long lasting. Every small church wants to create, what I call, “positive gossip.” When you reach out to families with events or assisting families you are “seed planting,” and creating “positive gossip,” and as weeks roll by, families remember the generosity and kindness of the rural church. Your goal is NOT Sunday attendance but to build long-lasting relationships.

 
How can the small church serve our community?

 
DETERMINE THE NEED. While still in my twenties, a well-known pastor of a growing church, Tommy Barnett, made this statement, “Find a need and fill it.” This is a strong motivation for finding the most efficient means of reaching our rural areas and community. Some churches have a food pantry open one day a week, others give away coats during the cold seasons, and some churches supply single mothers with Christmas presents. One great outreach in the community has been the “Mother’s Day Out.” Where the church provides child care and provides financial assistance for the “single mom,” to a nail salon, beauty shop and maybe, even get her a massage and some shopping gift cards. This is a relation based outreach and likewise, meets a need.

 
DETERMINE THE COST. Cost efficiency is necessary for the small church. First, express the vision. Explain in detail the need for the next outreach. Secondly, spell out the cost for each stage. The overall cost may seem overwhelming but breaking up the cost in bite-sized pieces recognizes even the smallest gifts. Thirdly, explain “why.” Why would we want to help a single mom? Why would we want to provide Christmas to a struggling family? Even Scrooge will participate in an offering to help a family in desperate need. Fourthly, start early. Catching people off guard will often give an undesirable response. Start advertising and collecting funds beforehand.

 
DETERMINE THE NUMBER OF VOLUNTEERS NEEDED. The most common complaint among small church pastors has been, “We don’t have enough volunteers to do an outreach, but much is determined by “how we said it” rather than “what we said.”

 

Don’t say this, “We need several volunteers for our Christmas outreach this year.”
Say this, “God has given us an incredible opportunity to change a single mother’s life. We only need two women to volunteer to purchase the needed items. And, we need two volunteers (maybe, teenagers) to volunteer to watch her children on a Thursday night from 6:00 to 9:00.”
Don’t say, “We are taking an offering for the needy in our community.”
Say this, “We will be receiving an offering through the next two weeks for a single mother in our community who is in need of assistance for herself and her two children.”
Don’t say, “We are collecting gifts for needy children.”
Say, “We are collecting $150 for a bicycle and a doll and baby carriage for a boy and a girl depending on us for their Christmas this year.”
You may have a better way to express the need to your congregation but when you detail the need, explain why and put dollar signs on the need, the people will open up their heart and their wallet.

 

PEOPLE WHO WON’T GIVE GENERALLY WILL OFTEN GIVE SPECIFICALLY

 

DETERMINE TO PRAY ABOUT IT. Mention the need often, making it a matter of prayer. It concerns God about the needs of people in our community, involve God in the outreach process. Prayer is a change maker. Prayer makes a difference. Charge the church to become involved in praying for the needs throughout the community. Make this a yearlong prayer request, post needs. While the church may not be able to meet every need–the church can effectively and efficiently meet the needs of some.

Copyright by Jim Laudell. Materials may not be copied, reproduced or distributed without the written permission of the author. You may share on Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media while giving credit to the author. This post should not be construed as medical, legal or professional advice.

The Small Church Pastor and Church Attendance

Several pastors this week were admitting failing to maintain steady church attendance. Each one had experienced low attendance over the last few months and were concerned.

“What is wrong with my people, they use every excuse they can find to miss church?”
“We had a great outreach on Saturday but had our lowest attendance on Sunday.”
“Do people even care about faithfulness anymore?”
“We need our musicians, singers, and greeters to be at their post but they continue to miss and don’t even let me know they will be absent – what am I doing wrong?”             “When you pastor a church of less than 100 every person counts.”

Even though pastors have taught on faithfulness, pastors are struggling with a variety of lame excuses. From “the cat had kittens” to “my nose was running.” One person just “needed a day of rest,” after spending the day at a Fall Festival. “It’s like the church is at the bottom of the list,” a Pastor moaned. One light-hearted pastor quipped, “Well, at least this church is going down slower than the last one I pastored.”

But doesn’t attendance, faithfulness and spiritual growth matter? Yes, it does but let’s look at some of the problems with church attendance.

1. THE CHURCH IS LOSING MEMBERS – I started with the worst scenario. When members of your church are leaving disgruntled this is devastating to a Pastor who has been trying to do his best but couldn’t heal the rift. Prayer and fasting are mandated in such moments and a week in a secluded location can sharpen your leadership abilities in this time of crises. Show the remaining congregation strength and security by reassuring your followers and by being honest and hopeful.

2. THE ATTENDANCE IS LOW – There will be seasons of highs and lows brought about by vacations, health reasons, and holidays plus, in rural areas, harvest time. Pray and stay encouraged. Keep in touch with your absentees. No matter where you pastor or who you pastor, there will be absenteeism.

3. UNFAITHFULNESS – There will always be certain somebodies who treat church attendance as a guest instead of a member. Absenteeism is in every church and the unfaithful have the lamest excuses. Not surprising, many Baby Boomers interpret faithfulness as Sunday Morning attendance on every other Sunday. To add to the problem, unfaithfulness hurts the church finances because the unfaithful members rarely catch up on their tithe giving.

4. PLANNED ACTIVITIES – Many events are being planned on Sundays from Family Reunions, Birthday Parties, and Concerts and even, shopping. With the church being live streamed, multiple services throughout the week and online Bible Studies, it has become much easier to stay at home. Reading a devotional has been equated with listening to the Pastor preach the Word of God. Maybe the church needs fewer activities but more mission mandated activities.

5. THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM – Attendance is not the measuring stick of the Pastor’s success level. Many pastors are great men of God but lack a support system around them. Yes, spiritual growth and church health are anemic when faithfulness to the House of God is not taught but a pastor shouldn’t beat himself up because people have lost their desire. Preach the Word, stay in love with Jesus and continue to love people.

What can we do about it? Sometimes, nothing. If we preach about it – we are scolding. If we teach on it – we are critical. And, if we ask where they were, get ready to hear excuses from A to Z. So what is a Pastor to do?

• Realize absenteeism will happen. If it isn’t a habit – don’t make it a bigger problem. Things come up and people will miss for credible reasons.
• Don’t be too harsh but express heartfelt concern when you haven’t seen a member regularly.
• Pray for each of them and send a card or text every time they miss. Let them know you miss them.
• Be willing to change service times or days if you need to make it more plausible. We changed our Wednesday night service from 7:00 to 6:00 and served dinner for those rushing in from work.
• Quit saying, “Where two or three are gathered there am I in the midst of them,” every time you have a low crowd. Don’t excuse unfaithfulness. Preach your best message and worship God. Keep focused on Jesus and not on people who are missing.

Copyright by Jim Laudell. Materials may not be copied, reproduced or distributed without the written permission of the author. You may share on Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media while giving credit to the author. This post should not be construed as medical, legal or professional advice.