Tag Archives: church

Why would a church group want to make a movie?

Why does the church need to be involved in producing movies? I hear that question often… especially when we talk about how much it is going to cost to produce “The Prodigal Project.” (read more about that…)

“Doesn’t Hollywood already do a good job of it? And aren’t there other churches producing Christian films?”

The most obvious answer is that we have a story to tell – the story of God loving us so much that he came to live among us, showing us how to truly live. It is the story about God searching for the lost… and throwing a party when we’re found! If it isn’t the church’s job to tell that story, then whose job is it?

Unfortunately, most of the Christian films produced by churches speak primarily to a Christian audience. They tell powerful stories filled with the Gospel, but they’re done in such a way that “secular” folks will never see them.

Another answer to the question, “Why are we doing this?” appeared in a recent blog post by John Stonestreet.

He reminded his readers of the famous quote by Scottish politician Andrew Fletcher, “Let me write the songs of a nation, and I don’t care who writes its laws.”

He elaborated,

We’ve got to realize that the ideas that most effectively shape a culture are not necessarily those that are argued, but those that are embodied. They capture the heart and mind because they capture the imagination.

So let’s embody God’s unconditional love, forgiveness, and opportunity for second chances. And let’s tell compelling stories which reveal that truth. Let’s pour our energy and resources into capturing imaginations… Like Jesus did when he talked about wedding banquets… and travelers mugged on the side of the road… and farmers sowing seed… and fathers welcoming home lost sons.

Discerning God’s will; building a church budget

We’re beginning a bold experiment in discerning God’s leadership and developing a Ministry Action Plan at Richmond’s First Baptist Church.

Its still a work in progress, and I’m sure we’ll hit some bumps along the way. It may even fall apart in the process. But it is an open, honest and straightforward effort to listen and follow God’s leadership.

I’ve never been a big fan of the way most churches develop their budget.

There are some notable and extraordinary exceptions, but in many churches the process usually begins with the Budget Committee looking at last year’s budget, comparing it with how much money has been given and what the economic forecast for the coming year looks like. Then they decide upon some number that represents their best estimate of what the members will actually give next year. They close with prayer and ask God to bless their work.

Surely there’s a better way. So this year, we’re trying a different approach.

It begins with a discernment process. All of the teams in the church (all 50 of them) are meeting during these days to pray and listen for God’s answer to the question, “What is God leading our team to be and do?” They’re not discussing money yet. That will come later. But for now, unencumbered by the financial costs involved, they’re trying to discern God’s leadership for their ministry area.

Our Senior Associate Pastor Lynn Turner has come up with some guiding questions for the teams to use in the process.

“God’s Will: nothing less, nothing more”

Framing:  What is God leading us to do in this area of ministry in the coming year? 

Shedding: What do we need to lay aside in order to hear God speak?  What do we need to let go of in our current ministry that will allow God to open new avenues of ministry? 

Listening: Whose voices do we need to hear now?  Who do we need to talk with that might give insight? 

Exploring and Weighing: Sharing of ideas of those who have been praying… asking the question… ”where does God seem most present in the ideas shared? Where does the Spirit seem to rest?” 

Resting: Taking some time to pray about the path ahead.

You can’t enforce a timetable on discerning God’s leadership, but we hope that by the end of the summer all of the teams will begin to sense a direction.

Next, the team leaders and leadership staff will work together to figure out how much it will cost (money, time and people) to accomplish what they feel God is leading them to do.

And then, in mid-September, we’ll have a Saturday morning-long “Ministry Action Plan Summit,” attended by all church team leaders, and the members of the Budget, Finance & Personnel Teams. Each team will have written on a 3×5 card what they’re sensing as God’s direction. The team leaders will have two minutes each to tell the group about it. (Senior Pastor Jim Somerville says he’s going to keep the stopwatch and call time.)

We’ll communicate what the teams are hearing throughout the church, through every possible channel of communication. We’ll challenge our congregation to consecrate ourselves to follow where God leads.

An important piece of the process is one we don’t feel we can implement quite yet. But, God willing, it will be the centerpiece of the Ministry Action Plan development process beginning next year. It is a “Consecration Sunday” when the congregation will have the opportunity to make a commitment of their time, talent, and finances to carry out what God has called us to do in the coming year.

Up until this point, there has been no discussion of the financial aspects of the Ministry Action Plan. But now, with the financial projections that the team leaders have developed and the commitments the congregation made on Consecration Sunday, the Budget Team will meet to develop a three-tier budget for the coming year:

  1. A “Hold the Line Budget” – the smallest of the three, that essentially keeps the budget where it was the previous year.
  2. A “Step of Faith Budget” – a larger number that accounts for the faith that God will provide.
  3. A “Bringing Heaven to Earth Budget” – a number that reflects all that we sense God is calling us to do, and so large a number that only God can make it happen.

The Deacon Chair, two representatives each from Budget, Finance & Personnel Teams, the Senior Pastor, the seven Associate Pastors, and one representative from each of the eight ministry areas of the church (Invitation, Community, Worship, Formation, Compassion, Communication, Support, & Pastor’s Office) will get together in October. With the Budget Team’s three scenarios in hand, this group will negotiate and develop a recommended set of priorities to meet each of the three scenarios. We fully expect to give-and-take among the ministry areas so that, when the day is done, we will agree on on where God is leading our church in the coming year.

The Budget Team will review, adjust and take final action on the recommendations and then begin a two-month series of presentations and discussions among Deacons and the congregation, allowing more room and time for God’s Spirit to move among us. Perhaps additional adjustments will be made the plans during this period.

Finally, in mid-December, the congregation vote on the plan.

That’s the plan. I’ll tell you how it’s going as we live it out in the coming months.

Tell the truth

Joseph Pew, founder of Sun Oil Company (and whose children later set up the Pew Charitable Trusts), is credited with coining the phrase, “Tell the truth and trust the people.”

I first heard the phrase from one of the best church communicators I’ve ever known: Floyd Craig. He was talking about how to communicate in tense situations, when there’s controversy or division in the church. Floyd is now president of Floyd Craig Communications in Franklin, TN, specializing in crisis communications. Among the several books Floyd has written are Christian Communicator’s Handbook, and a publication written for the United Methodist Church, Not IF, But When – a Crisis Communication Manual.

Over the last 30 years in church communication I’ve evolved a variation on the phrase: “Trust God and tell the truth… early and often.”

Before, during and after everything else: Trust God. And simply tell the truth.

The advice doesn’t apply only to crisis or controversial situations. If you’re starting a new ministry in the church, or contemplating a change in the way things are done, or challenging the congregation in a particular area of spiritual growth – trust God and tell the truth.

“Early and often” – It is certainly true in crisis situations: The first telling of the story is the standard by which all subsequent versions are measured. The first speaker is proactive. The next ones are reactive. If the first version of the story is corroborated by the following ones, the story is verified. If different versions begin to appear, the truth of the original is called into question.

Be the first to tell your story. And if you tell it the way it is, you won’t have to remember which version you told to which group. Your message will be consistent across all channels of communication.

And if you make a mistake, admit it. Be the first to claim the mistake. Trust God and tell the truth.

Floyd shared another anecdote in an email message the other day. He wrote, “Congressman Brooks Hays and I were walking in a hall of the capitol and a lady came up to him, poking at him and went about complaining about some issue on which he had taken a stand. He listened and listened and when she finally ran down, he said, ‘You know, you may be right!’ The lady immediately ceased her tirade, smiled and said, ‘Thank you so much, congressman.’ As we walked on, he said under his breath, ‘And she may not be right!’ I wish I had learned to say more ‘you know, you may be right’ statements. I probably would not have died on so many small crosses or wasted my time on some things.”