PP 39: John Jay Alvaro and a Visual Homiletic

PP 39: John Jay Alvaro and a Visual Homiletic

In this episode of the Productive Pastor we hear from Rev. John Jay Alvaro, Senior Pastor of Spring Creek Baptist Church, about his unique sermon note process. John Jay has also created a fantastic resource about his process called “Creating Outside the Lines: Searching For A Visual Homeletic.”

We talk about the visual process of sermon delivery John Jay practices and how he found his way to it. We talk about what it means for a congregation to give their pastor the space to find new ways to communicate. Ultimately, this isn’t about a delivery tactic, but instead a process of public creativity and holy presentation.

Links Mentioned
PDF of Creating Outside the Lines (Creating Outside the Lines pdf. )
Spring Creek Sermons
Maker Monthly
Sermons That Have Reach Early Bird

Do you want to create valuable change? Use better assumptions.

Do you want to create valuable change? Use better assumptions.

People don’t like assumptions. We’ve all heard the joke. It goes something like this.

“You know what happens when you assume…you make and ass out of you and me.”

I have to admit, I probably laughed the first time I heard this.

But I assume things. We all assume things. We walk into situations with our own experience, knowledge and beliefs.

The Power of Assumptions

I want to share with you two assumptions I carry with me everywhere. Whenever I step into any leadership position, whether it is permanent or just a conversation with someone, I assume two things. I call them my “guiding principles”.

1. The best indicator of a future reality is past and current behavior.
2. You or your organization is designed to get exactly the results you are getting.

Before you begin thinking Chad has descended into corporate leadership mumbo jumbo, let me tell you why these two statements are so important to me.

I am a Wesleyan, and more specifically a United Methodist pastor. I come from a faith tradition that lives in the tension of the dramatic power and influence of grace over each persons life and a sense of personal responsibility once grace is encountered. Organizationally, it could be said John Wesley’s (the founder of the Methodist movement) entire revival hinged upon careful examination and a theological commitment to organizational clarity and purpose. It even applied down to individual persons, with the Wesleyan discipleship system (arguably the most influential by-product of the movement) focusing almost entirely upon person examination and purpose.

If you are a person that believes life is divinely called and directed by God, and I am, we need to always be focusing on how clear we are following God’s vision and purpose is our areas of influence.

So let me unpack why these two statements matter to me.

1. The best indicator of a future reality is past and current behavior.
Have you ever stepped into a situation where you know things need to change? It might have been personally or as part of a church or other organization. You need new outcomes in life. This change can be many different things, from personal development or shifting the entire culture of a group of people.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard stories of folks realizing things aren’t the best, and are hoping for a different future, but are unwilling to deal with the present and the past. If situations haven’t been perfect…the chance is they won’t be that much different in the future.

The only way to dramatically change the future is to dramatically change the present.

2. You or your organization is designed to get exactly the results you are getting.
This is the second questions. It usually makes the most sense when people are debating the merits of their current practices. It is never hard to get folks to realize there are problems…what is hard is getting them to own up to how they are responsible for the problems.

Call it blame shifting, lack of awareness or education if you want.

We simply have to take personal responsibility for whatever our current outcomes are. If things are flourishing…something is going on right. If we feel we are our of the rhythm of ministry (or just life personally), out of the presence and power of God…we need to change things.

Sadly, I have talked with to many church leaders who acquiesce to the problems and simply think greater faith and prayer is going to flip around the ministries they are part of. Yes-faith and prayer should be the cornerstone towards what Jesus calls us to do, but we have to join that with responsibility and vision. We have to be willing to own exactly what is going on and to never stop.

One of the the marks of the presence of God is forward motion. Jesus moving us closer towards making each place we live in a better example of what life looks like with Him in control. Closer towards justice and peace. Closer towards people making Jesus decisions and not self decisions.

So think about those two assumptions. I have found a discussion centered around the two statements is an amazing jumpstart towards following the mission of Jesus closer and aligning our own personal and church decisions with what Jesus is calling each of us to do.

Why You Need To Ask Yourself Tough Questions

Why You Need To Ask Yourself Tough Questions

Beatles or Stones?

Earlier this year I asked this question on Facebook and got around 200 comments. I love the question. It tells me so much about a person and their musical taste and preferences.

Good questions tell us so much more than a simple answer.

I wrote a piece on Why I became a Methodist. In the article, I mentioned one of the primary decision points being my belief in the effectiveness and necessity of Wesleyan discipleship.

Part of  historic discipleship and formation (growing closer to Christ) in the Methodist tradition is the act of asking questions. We ask them to ourselves in our own personal devotion. We ask them to others we are in accountability with.  This was important in the Methodist movement and I feel a recovery of the asking of questions will be a key thing to any spiritual development in our world now.

A little history…

Wesley organized his folks (you couldn’t really call them a formal church yet) into 3 groups. From largest to smallest; the Societies, The Classes and The Bands. Part of the fundamental design of the two smallest (classes and bands) was a series of questions designed to keep each person in forward motion towards Jesus Christ. The Class met as a mixed group of sexes and ages. When they met, these questions formed the main conversation points. They got SERIOUS!

When the Bands met, the questions got even more in depth. They also centered on this small group (usually no more than 5-6 and same sex) really keeping each other on track. You gave the others the permission to get into your business.

Here are another set of questions Wesley and his original small group, called The Holy Club, asked themselves in their lives and meetings.

Our life now

These questions matter. They help us to be real and honest with each other. One of the best small group experiences I have ever had focused on asking a few of these questions every week. This isn’t casual discipleship. It is changing and transformational discipleship. It is the kind of spiritual relationships each Christian needs to have in their life.

Several groups have done a great job trying to incorporate these classic notions of discipleship into current life. Most of them are going really well. What I really appreciate are the attempts to quickly get the emotive qualities of these HUGE lists into a few simple questions. You can answer them openly, in front of people you know and don’t know. You can be asked them by people who know you really well. The most important quality is these questions are approachable. It is frightening allowing others into what most modern Christians consider to be pretty private.  Here is a listing of the ones I have found, liked and used.

1. Are you growing closer or further away from God since the last time we met?
2. How do you see God moving in your life right now?
3. How is your life in God?

Lately, I have a new one I have been thinking about, asking myself and asking others. It comes from my own personal conviction and values.

How have you allowed God to change you lately?

This question tells much more than a simple yes or no. In my own examination it causes me to think about my openness to Christ, my expectation of his presence and activity, how my false self is being broken down, etc, etc. It is great and broad.

Self-examination has long been part of Christian tradition. It helps us to make the points in which we have grown closer to God, progressed in our sanctification, won victory over things controlling us or simply mark our maturation in Christ.

So friends, How have you allowed God to change you lately?

Productive Pastor 29: Social Media Scheduling

Productive Pastor 29: Social Media Scheduling

Welcome to the 29th Productive Pastor. This episode is all about social media scheduling and how that might affect transparency and honesty. I also give a social media scheduling sheet at the bottom of the shownotes. This whole episode came from this instagram picture from a few months back.

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 10.29.51 AM

While I am not scheduling a month in advance right now, I totally believe in mapping out social media scheduling. My friend David Lyell asked a great question and I promised I would hit it up in a future episode. Well now you have it!

The Middle

Thanks for all the great folks who shouted out about the last episode with Omar and Michelle. They got open and honest with us and it really resonated with people.

I also want to thank Michael Romans for this awesome tweet.

Project Management Links 

We did a couple of episodes on project management in season two and I found two great links this week about project management tools. I want to share them with you, I think both are great ideas for how to actually manage a project.

How To Organize Your Entire Life with Trello

No Project Manager? Try Bullet Journaling for Business Productivity

How to use Social Media Scheduling (and not lose your soul)

I believe highly in social media scheduling, just for the sake of productivity, much less for intentionality. Many people argue that doing great social media takes to much time, but with scheduling you can take care of it in a few minutes a week. Let’s break this into the Why, What, When, Who and How.

Why
If you think everyone in your network see’s the posts you make, you will be really surprised. A tweet has a lifespan of about 18 minutes, Most Facebook page updates are seen by 6-20% of the audience. I think Instagram probably has the best ratio, but I am not convinced they aren’t using a viewing algorithm. If you want to make maximum impact, you have to schedule your most important updates.

Simply Measured for Facebook

What
Look at your insights, analytics and statistics. Let that data tell you what you need to be posting, what people are responding to best and how they are responding.

When
What are the best times of the day for you? When is it a bad idea to post?

Who
Your data tells you who follows you. What questions should that make you ask?

How
Each network has the best tools to schedule your posts.

So how do I use this sheet?
I highlight one thing to be my Major Emphasis. This is the most important “thing” I am trying to communicate that week. I also have a few medium items as well. I also make sure to emphasize a few posts that are more than likely to get high levels of engagement (based on my research). I then begin to fill in my posts for each network based off of the times I know things work best in each network. If a post is really important, I make sure to schedule it at the time I know the most people are online. I feel in the blanks after that.

Productive Pastor Social Media Schedule (download)

Transparency
The kicker in all of this is exactly what Dave asked about. We have to be strategic but we also have to be transparent. Folks will shut us off in a heartbeat if we are just advertising to them. Part of the beauty of doing this all at one time is realizing how you aren’t being social and you are just asking, asking and asking.

Remember to sign up for the Productive Pastor Insider List. Get a great FREE productivity resource and the inside scoop every other Friday.

Listen:
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Productive Pastor 25: Project Management with Rich Birch

Productive Pastor 25: Project Management with Rich Birch

 

On this episode of The Productive Pastor I interview Rich Birch, of Unseminary.com and Liquid Church. Rich is a great pastor, leader and project manager.

The List
Your Not Going Fast Enough:
Do you ever feel like you aren’t working, pastoring or leading as good as you can? Perhaps the problem is your speed.

How to Be an Effective Road Warrior
I work almost exclusively mobile. It’s part of my strategic ministry. What’s rough is learning to work when you are on the road and out of town. In either situation, the blog post gives some great tips.

Tomorrow Tonight: The Importance of Pre-Planning
How do you prepare for tomorrow? Is it when you get to the office? That my friend is a recipe for disaster. I wrote about the same issue earlier this week here

 

Rich Birch on Project Management

Rich and I talk about project management and what it looks like for church leadership to learn about project management and why it is vital to ministry. Our conversation focuses around 3 questions.

1. What is your organizational sweet spot?

2. What do ministry leaders need to not just understand, but rock project management?

3. How can a leader get their feet wet with project management?

We talked about these books to help people begin to rock project management.

Getting Things Done: David Allen

The Four Hour Work Week: Tim Ferris

The E-Myth: Michael Gerber

Rich also shares about his passion for excellent announcements in worship and offers the Productive Pastor community a great free resource. You can grab it at unseminary.com/chad Check out Rich at unseminary.com and follow him on twitter @richbirch. Make sure to listen to his podcast. It consistently is one of my ministry favorites.

Confession Time

Over the last few weeks you might have missed the Productive Pastor Podcast (at least I hope you did). Last week I shared this email with the folks signed up for the insider list. What I realized is I had lost my motivation, the “why”, of why this podcast matters tremendously to me. As I was contemplating this I read a blog post entitled “How I Went from Mad to Motivated“. The quote that stuck out the most to me was this… “Once I woke up from that false perspective – the perspective that the other stuff was more of a distraction at the time than anything else – I got mad at myself. Then I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to get back on the horse – the right horse. I was motivated.” So I did what I normally do. I made a list. I made a list of why many different things mattered to me. I realized many things I really care about had dropped off the map. So the podcast will be back. In January. With amazing new stuff and a great interview to kick off the new season. In the interim I will be producing some great new additions to the Productive Pastor community.

Remember to sign up for the Productive Pastor Insider List. Get a great FREE productivity resource and the inside scoop every other Friday.

Listen:
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Why Plant Churches

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Some of you know I was recently appointed to start a new Methodist congregation in North Louisiana. I have a mailing list I send out to anyone interested. A few people liked the first email so much I decided to post it here.

Why Plant Churches

One of the first questions I am asked when people hear about my appointment to plant a church is isn’t there already a Methodist church in Sterlington?
 
Yep. There is.
 
Then why start a new one?”
 
Here is where the rubber meets the road. The average church plant will bring 6-8 times more new people into faith than an older congregation of the same size.  Newer people groups and situations require new methods and new churches. New churches are able to streamline and focus ministry in unique ways that existing churches can’t.
 
This isn’t just institutional reproduction. Starting new churches is evangelism.
 
If we want to introduce new people to Jesus, we have to start new churches. 
 
Plain and simple. 
 
Starting a new church isn’t just a desire for something new or cool, but it is about reaching new people for Jesus. I don’t want to pour years of my life and expend tremendous resources for “just another worship optionfor church folks. It is about following the call to be part of something Holy Spirit led. For people who are already followers of Jesus, our highest calling is fulfilling the Great Commission. To follow the pioneering of the Holy Spirit and break new ground, go to new places, do new things and reach new people. God is calling not just Meredith and me, but others to be part of this new church. I don’t know who these people are yet, but I have been praying for them for the past year.
 
And I deeply believe that God is calling me to begin this in the Sterlington area. Not to be better or newer, but to go to a new mission field and meet new people and introduce them to Jesus. To follow the call of God without abandon. To create environments for them to experience God, possibly for the very first time. To help them discover the God-given purpose and call in their life. To create a culture of holiness and sacrificial love. To meet with God, see and experience His kingdom, and be part of doing everything we can to pull it into our place and time“your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” type stuff
 
This is why we are planting a church.