Why Pastors Need to Preach on Marriage

Marriage is one of my favorite topics to preach on. More that 50% of my congregation is married and the balance of the church wants to tie the knot. That means, whenever we announce a series of teachings on marriage, everyone is excited. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few challenges associated with teaching on marriage. Some singles get frustrated about talks on marriage. It’s somewhat difficult to teach in a new and fresh way. However, the benefits outweigh the challenges.

So I thought I’d share 5 reasons for you to keep a marriage series on the preaching calendar every year…

#1 – Preach on Marriage because it’s good for your marriage – I’ll be honest, there are times that I wanted to cancel a marriage series we had planned because Carey and I got into an argument and I didn’t feel like studying all week about how to be a great husband. The reality is, that’s exactly what I needed to do. Most of the time the disagreements are my fault anyways (haha!) and I need to get into God’s Word and straighten out my own heart. It also reminds me of things I should be doing that I may have gotten lax about.

#2 – Preach on Marriage because Your Congregation Needs It – The #1 reason people come to Calvary for counseling is due to marriage related issues. Every week many couples walk through your doors who are hanging on by a thread. For this reason, we need to be preaching a message that helps couples work through problems.

#3 – Preach on Marriage because We all Struggle – One of the most common themes I hear when I teach on marriage is, “Pastor Bob, I didn’t realize so many people are going through the same things.” Yes, all couples argue. Yes, all couples go through challenging seasons. When couples know that they aren’t alone, it gives us hope because if other came make it, so can we.

#4 – Preach on Marriage because it will Help Unchurched People – Every week I talk to couples who started attending Calvary because we they were invited to our marriage series. Unchurched people struggle in their marriages and are looking for answers on how to be happily married. I’m grateful the church can be that place where we can welcome fellow strugglers and all work together to have happy, healthy marriages.

#5 – Preach on Marriage because It Will Grow your Church – People need Jesus. Many times, marital struggles are simply the tip of the iceberg. I make no apologies that I want Calvary to grow. There are over 5 million people in Broward and Miami-Dade counties and they need to hear the Gospel. I want people to come to know Jesus and grow from infancy to maturity in their walk with God. This happens within the context of the local church. I’m not talking about numbers so we can puff ourselves up in pride. I’m talking about adding people, lives, families to the Kingdom of God. Pastors, never be ashamed for wanting for community to know Jesus and for you be one of the vessels God uses to help them grow. That’s why you got into ministry in the first place.

So preach on marriage, you’ll be glad you did.

Why Churches Stay Small (and Never Break 200)

This year Calvary, the church I pastor, was named the 5th fastest growing church in the United States by Outreach Magazine. There was lots of clapping by our congregation, congratulations by ministry colleagues, and even a cake from my staff. However, I remember when Calvary was a struggling church of 50 trying to reach people and get into triple digits. Over the last year I’ve been many times to explain how Calvary went from a church that reached new few people to a vibrant congregation. However, that’s not the real question people are asking. They want to know how their church can start growing and reaching people.

As I’ve coached more than 2,500 pastors in the last 4 years, I can say that the path to breaking the 200 barrier in attendance isn’t difficult. However, it takes courage to do things that are next to impossible in some church settings. But for those who wish to make the bold decisions needed to reach people far from God, I believe there are 5 reasons churches don’t break 200 in attendance….

#1 – There’s No Bigger Vision Beyond Current Circumstances

A few years ago I was consulting with a church that wanted to break 200. I arrived at the church and found a sanctuary which sat only 100 people. While they were doing 2 services on Sunday, the church could not exceed 200. The diagnosis was easy. The remedy was far more difficult. The church needed to move so they could keep growing. This is why churches need to be careful when picking meeting space early on and building auditoriums later on. If you aren’t careful, the shoe will tell the foot how big it can grow. If you want our church to grow beyond your current size, there needs to be a God-sized vision, not a survival mode mentality.

#2 – There’s No Commitment to Reproduce Leaders

I tell our leaders at Calvary that you cannot build a 20 story building on a 10 story foundation. That means, for the church to further grow, we need to continue investing in leaders at every level of the organization. Everyone who serves at Calvary receives investment. The individual’s level of commitment determines what level of investment they receive. The reason is because we want to give the most training and time to those who are the most committed. Churches who want to grow beyond 200 can start this today. Gather a group of leaders and potential leaders and start investing in them. Do some teaching. Read a book together. Rub shoulders with them. Investing in leaders always returns a huge dividend.

#3 – There’s No Strategy to Reach the Community 

Growing churches know that the community isn’t going to just come to them. Churches need to get out in the community and start serving, inviting, and sharing the Gospel. Churches also need to recognize that they need unique strategies to reach those who have friends who at you church versus those who have no idea your church exists. Obviously, word of mouth costs nothing and servant evangelism costs next to nothing. So if you can’t spend money on postcards, billboards, or Facebook ads, do the things that don’t cost anything. We do an entire module in our Breaking 200 course about the Bootstrapper’s Guide to Church Outreach.

#4 – There’s No Commitment to Excellence on Sunday

Too many pastors are putting together their sermons on Saturday night and wondering why the service on Sunday doesn’t run on all 8-cylinders. I tell pastors to make an appointment with themselves during the week to study and get Sunday’s message ready. Because here’s the reality: people are judging your church based on the Sunday experience. You can have exceptional small groups, but no one will get that far unless Sunday grips them. Pastors need to understand that their greatest contribution to the church comes in the form of casting vision and preaching. I want people who attend Calvary to have the best experience possible on Sunday because that is where they are making decisions to stay or go.

#5 – There’s No Glue to Keep Those You Reach

There are few things more frustrating than reaching people through the front door and seeing them walk out the back door because there’s no process to help them stick. Unchurched people don’t know the drill when it comes to church. They attend, enjoy the service, but it’s up to us as church leaders to help them their next steps with God. That means we need to make these steps easy and strategic. That means we need to follow up with those who God brings to us. I have long said that the greatest stewardship we are given is the stewardship of people. Treat people like the gifts they are. Help them grow. Crete a process that leads them from infancy in Christ to maturity. When you do, breaking 200 won’t be a problem for very long.

Pastors and Diet Advice

fat guy

A few years ago a friend was telling me his weight loss strategy.

He had all of the stats on eliminating carbs and eating lean protein.

There was just one problem: He was eating a Big Mac while he was telling me this (and the dude as close to 100 pounds overweight).

Whenever I hear about another “church growth consultant” who has the latest theory about growing a church, I think of my McDonald’s-loving buddy.

I hear the consultant’s strategy for how he’s going to help the church grow and I think, “He’s just like the fat guy who giving diet advice.”

Here’s my advice to you: Listen carefully to the guys who are in the trenches everyday leading churches and be careful of the guys who have never done it. 

It’s like learning to swim online (did you know there are websites that can claim they can teach you to swim from the privacy of your home office?).

I’m sorry, but if someone is teaching people to swim and water isn’t involved, run for your life.

As a pastor who is leading a church and in the middle of a multi-million dollar building project after over a decade of being a portable church, I know what it’s like to start a church from scratch. 

I know the pressure of leadership and the weight of teaching every Sunday.

If someone doesn’t understand that, they probably don’t understand you.

So just be careful who you take advice from…

One Thing I Learned From a Soldier…

I have a friend who was in the military. When I say he was in the military, he wasn’t just an average soldier. He was an Army Ranger. He was also part of a Special Forces unit.

One day, he and I were driving to lunch, and I asked him, “What possessed you to join the Army and be part of this special unit?”

Without missing a beat, he said, “Because they offered me a chance to be the best. They challenged me to either be the best or go home.”

It was at that moment that I realized when you challenge people, you invite them to go to a higher level.

Too many times in the church, we shy away from challenging people because we don’t want to offend.

Truth be told, the only people who get offended when we lay out a challenge are people who don’t want to grow.

I have learned that people are looking to be challenged. They are looking for something to which to give their lives. They are seeking to become more than they currently are.

And here’s the thing: I truly believe that the church can and should be that place.

But for that to happen, pastors need to step up to the plate and become comfortable challenging people.

Next time I’ll share about how we can do that. Until then, if you want to read more, check out my free Ebook: Handling Leadership Hot Potatoes.

4 Keys to Maximizing the Summer

Summer is here in Miami.

That means temperatures that reach “surface of the sun” levels and daily rain at 3PM.

That also means a season where we focus on deepening and training our congregation.

Lots of churches batten down the hatches and hunker down, praying for Fall to arrive.

We take a different approach.

Not only in our strategic outreach, but in our investment into our church and each other.

So here’s 4 things you can do this Summer that will bring depth and health to your church: 

#1 – Theology Classes – every summer we host what we call “Calvary Institute”, where we focus on classes that train our congregation theologically. These classes run anywhere from 6-8 weeks in length. our church loves them and it’s a great time to mature the believers in your church who want to grow.

#2 – Small Group Leader Training – We run our Small Group Leader training throughout the year, but our Summer session is always well attended. This is a 6 week class that teaches potential group leaders how to be an effective Small Group leader. We created an entire resource on the subject here. 

#3 – Vacation – We encourage our staff to take vacation over the summer. There are other times of the year that are blocked out and we don’t allow anyone to take vacation, but summer is a time when we want the staff to get some rest and enjoy their kids while they’re out of school.

#4 – Personal Development – We encourage our team to read more, listen to more programs, and attend an event geared towards leadership or personal development over the Summer. If certain ministries are slower during the summer, this is a great time to invest in yourself.

In fact, this is exactly why we decided to host the “Breaking 500 Bootcamp” in August in Orlando, FL at Disney World. Well, the fact that it’s at Disney World helps too 🙂

You can learn more about our Breaking 500 Bootcamp by clicking here