CPL: You have quite an involved sermon preparation and review process that you and others on your teaching team go through. Tell us about that and its benefits.
We really value every weekend opportunity because we believe that if we can get people to join us, there is a good chance we can lead them to Jesus. So we take sermon prep seriously and we are diligent about working ahead – our teaching schedule is planned one year in advance. We spend the weeks in advance of a new sermon series working on video, set design, graphics, even changing our website.
As for message preparation, we work in a team environment. We have several teaching pastors and we all work together to produce the message. We evaluate each other by pointing out any places where the message could be stated more clearly. We suggest other Scripture if another passage or verse is more relevant, appropriate or helpful in teaching people how to align their lives with Jesus. We constructively criticize one another and find this to be a huge benefit to both our congregation and to the teaching pastor.
Finally, I’d say that we are very careful about what Scripture we use because we believe it can change lives, shape people into Christ’s image and ultimately SET PEOPLE FREE. We also read Scripture aloud each week utilizing multiple translations of the Bible. We love to use translations that are the most accessible for our people including the ESV, the NLT and NIV.
CPL: How do you guard your preaching prep time? What do your weekly rhythms look like?
We use Monday as a regroup day for the staff. We come back together and celebrate wins from the weekend which is super important. We don’t talk a lot about the next week but try to focus on the celebration. We also spend time evaluating the service and closing gaps where needed. We find this evaluation time so important to help us become better.
Tuesday and Wednesday are my prep time. Thankfully, I am not starting from scratch because, as a teaching team, we’ve been thinking and praying about this sermon for months by now. I am very careful to guard this time and make it a priority. I try to remember that when people call, their crisis might not be my crisis! I believe my sermon is the best way I lead, counsel and help as many people as possible so I don’t allow one person to rob me of what will help the majority of my people from week to week. The sermon is my opportunity as pastor to affect the largest amount of people. I need to be a great steward of my time here to make the greater impact on the body of Christ. This past weekend, for example, we had a number of people get saved online. So it’s not just the ‘live’ sermon that happens on our campuses that impacts people but all those tuning in all over the world. All of these folks are being equipped in their walk with Christ.
On Thursdays, I do a run thru (out loud) of my sermon to my message review team. This group includes our teaching team plus any key staff or attendees who can add value on a particular topic. For example, if the message in on marriage, we might enlist the help of an expert counselor in our congregation. If the message is about addiction, we might invite a former addict/substance abuse counselor to help. Their perspective is invaluable as you can imagine.
Finally, we make the edits, finalize notes and then we prep for the weekend!
CPL: You’ve recently recalibrated your leadership and ministry team structure at Mission Church. Tell us about how that has morphed over the last 8 years and how you landed on your present structure.
What we had before was a traditional church model - senior pastor, associate, youth, children’s pastor, etc. But as a multi-site church we needed to be able to reproduce as quickly as possible and so we’ve moved to an apprentice- based model. We’ve transitioned our paid staff from the role of the ‘doer’ to the role of trainer/leader. Our church ministries are broken into 8 areas and we now entrust key laypersons to lead in these areas with staff providing an oversight role.
Primarily this change was driven by our need for a reproducible and scale-able system. We’ve created a leadership pipeline. There are skills and expectation for every position - from entry level ministry to a staff post. Everyone in the church is challenged to join a ministry team and once on the team they are given a set of skills and expectations which vary from ministry to ministry. As those persons meet and exceed those expectations, this helps us identify new leaders who then move up the pipeline as they develop and grow.
One thing that has greatly helped us is our rhythm of ‘worship one, serve one.’ We encourage all our folks to worship and then serve over any given weekend. This is one of the big reasons why I value being a multi-service church, regardless of size: this model has greater potential for exponential growth (because we are growing more than one service at a time.) CPL: You are a strong visionary. How does your soul keep up with you? The priority for any pastor is our relationship with Christ, right? We want an intimate and vibrant relationship. Paul tells us in the letter to the Corinthians that we don’t want to disqualify ourselves from the race we are running so we have to do the work to make sure our relationship with Christ is first.
This work also includes leading my family well because we are a living example of Christ to the Church. So soul care and family care has to come first. This is what allows us to be great visionaries – great relationships. Vision without relationship isn’t vision at all. So I make a 24 hour Sabbath every week a priority, usually 12 noon one day to 12 noon the next. My wife and I spend Friday afternoons together on a date – visiting a new coffee shop we’ve never gone to. Then we spend the rest of that evening and Saturday morning with our kids. We also have a weekly goal to share at least one meal together every day – even if it means my wife and kids come to my office and we have a picnic there. I also spend most mornings at home with my family and head into the office about 10 am. Our kids are homeschooled so we can make this unconventional schedule work.
CPL: Technology is an important means of outreach and education for Mission Church. Tell us about the myriad of ways you use it and how it helps further your mission.
We have a fully interactive online campus. We don’t just live stream video but we actually interact with cameras like they are people. We talk to folks on campus but also to those online, giving them specific instructions during the service to go to chat rooms for one on one prayer, for example. We are very intentional about actually engaging people online.
We also use Google AdWords and Facebook ad campaigns to target those disconnected from Christ – people looking to get a divorce online, for example, or trolling for ways to commit suicide. We target folks like this online and hope they click onto our live messages.
Administratively we are active with technology to increase our productivity levels. We use Google Hangout for meetings, for example, and feel they are equally effective as face to face meetings. Technology helps us close time gaps and save money with a multi-campus structure. We also do all our sermon series and staff planning on Trello which is a group collaboration planning tool that is absolutely free online. We also use Evernote to digitize all that we do and to share files. We use Dropbox as well.
During our weekend services, we use the YouVersion Bible App live feature to pre-load all our sermon notes, instructions for giving and also announcements. This app downloads all our info onto our parishioners smart phones. We will be going to an all digital version of our worship folder soon.
CPL: Any last words of challenge you’d like to offer other pastors and leaders?
I really believe that we as Christ followers should be the most creative people on the planet. We should allow the Creator of all things to birth this in us. The number one reason why I believe we don’t have this creativity is because we haven’t established margins for it. So I’d like to urge other pastors to take the time to create margin in their schedules so they can be creative!
One way to do this is to excise things from the schedule that waste time - like meetings. At Mission Church, we strive for short and concise meetings! A lot of churches die by meetings, unfortunately. Commit to doing yours better. Secondly, planning in advanced/yearly planning saves a ton of time in a church’s week to week operations too (ordering materials, strategizing, etc). Thirdly, a lot of pastors/churches aren’t diligent about prioritizing their calendars. We say yes to things we should say no to which means saying no to things we should say yes to. We have to be clear about what our core values and priorities are otherwise we end up doing nothing well because we are trying to do everything.
For us, the core values are pretty simple. We believe our weekend services and the children’s ministries that accompany them need to be amazing. We also believe in a process of discipleship: an intentional strategy for helping people become fully devoted followers of Christ. Lastly, outreach is critical. We need to be out in the community each week meeting and blessing people.