How much should the church here budget for marketing and advertising?

You ask about advertising budget, a subject I like to talk about!   Remember first these  “truths,  which we hold to be self-evident”:

*** Over 80% of guests who visit a church for the first time were invited by a friend.

Nationally that is true.

Therefore we put a lot more effort into helping people realize this fact and make friends of people who do not go to church. Many of the people in our strong churches have very few friends who do not go to church. One reason is that we keep them too busy at the church, and another is that they do not try this hard work.

So happy church attenders are our first priority. If they’re happy and enjoy their church they will talk about it.  (Notice I did not just “faithful”

or “saved” church attenders, for some of them are grouchy or only want to talk about politics or hobby horses, and do not represent Christ and the church well.

*** Every church should have events and  ministries to get “on the map.” Races or Pickleball or care for single moms or care for people with children of special need.   Rest home visits. 

*** Churches with bulletin boards outside should make them interesting and not churchy and have phrases that people want to read as they drive by.   One of my favorites was there on an August day that reached 101 degrees: “You think this is hot!”

*** Then the smaller outreach budget should go to support local endeavors and to show that you were glad to be a part of the community.

An ad in the Kiwanis magazine,  the county fair booth,  the Christmas parade display…..

*** Then a small card that a person of the church can give to a friend to invite him or her.  I would put a little money into that.  Not churchy or trying to convert, just a joyful look at the church and time of services.

*** Then the 15 to 20 second video that you make of the pastor with a smile and a joyful word about a theme or life – something that people can pass on to their friends by way of email or their social media.   Too many make these teaching times — great for a different purpose.

You can say a lot in 20 seconds, and not lose attention of someone who did not ask for this!

And smart phones make amazing quality video and audio!

*** Then true PR – a 30-second commercial on local cable TV that reaches your area. You would be good at that. I could help you write them or give you about sample scripts that I have. A third of our church visitors came because of the radio or TV spots.  I never asked people to receive Christ as Savior and never invited them to the church. It just was positive and showed that I was excited about who Jesus is and what He can mean in our lives.    Go for it!

They were at recognizable sites in the community.

*** Then buy at a good rate an ad in a community paper or neighborhood book of coupons, not a big newspaper that is expensive.

Lincoln would have agreed these truths are self-evident!


BOUNDARIES…The very clear policy on “Boundaries” adopted by the board of oversight. This is about moral and financial policies and is enforced immediately when broken.

“HIT BY A TRUCK” PROCEDURE…The very clear steps and reassignment of leadership authority or pulpit responsibility to be in force immediately in the case of a tragedy or illness that prevents leadership capabilities for the pastor. There should be no question.
This is true in a church with a large pastoral staff — who is “number 2”? It is equally true when there is one person on staff. There also have been cases where a pastor abruptly resigned on Thursday! Or where severe flu hit Saturday evening! Just to say, “That has never happened here,” is not wise.

SECURITY PROCEDURES … Policies developed by the security team and approved by the board of oversight as to what to do when there is a breach of security or public danger because of an active shooter or invasion of the public gathering. You do not want to be deciding on the spot. Many small churches have assigned no security responsibility.

FINANCIAL POLICIES FOR CHECK-WRITING AND HANDLING OF MONEY… There are still churches where one person counts or handles the money or writes the checks, and that should change immediately with written policies written by the strong financial team and approved by the board of oversight.

EMERGENCY IN THE PULPIT … Even a very small church should have steps and a person or team assigned for someone approaching the pulpit for a questionable purpose, or what to do if the pastor of any age faints or has another medical emergency while up front. This involves another staff person if there is one and a person dear the pulpit who has security responsibilities. Some churches say they will play this by ear, and that is not sensible.

A ‘TRAGEDY’ SERMON … The pastor must have a sermon developed to use if a tragedy of major proportions happens the week before that Sunday. No one, the Sunday after 9/11 should have been preaching on Leviticus or James or anything but verses about tragedies and comfort and God’s teaching about pain.

MEDICAL EMERGENCY IN THE BUILDING … It does seem best to have a medical person assigned to take the lead in the sanctuary or building, if there are regular attenders who have such training; also to have several people trained to use a defibrillator if there is a heart attack in the building. You do have one?


Why imprison myself searching for God’s will?

I  grew up like some of you trying to live in “the will of God,” and searching for it when it was not obvious.    Sometimes it tied me in knots.

“Be sure you know what college is God’s will for you!”

“Don’t ever marry someone if you are not sure she is the one God has for you!”

“Are you sure it is God’s will for you to be a pastor?”

I was taught you could miss God’s “perfect will” for your life and live in his “permissive will.” Holy smokes.  I put myself in Gideon’s class – not a bad association – and was  putting out fleece so that God would clearly lead me. One time as I was graduating from seminary I decided that if the next car that came down the road were a red Rambler – that’s an ugly car you could not miss, and there weren’t many of them –  I/we would know it was God’s will for us  to go to Africa as missionaries.  We had already passed the missions board, and we also had an invite to go to Wooster as an associate pastor with a good veteran,  or to teach writing at Grace, or to keep my full-time job as a writer-editor for a Christian publisher.

Yikes!  A blue Rambler came!   Serious.  Did that mean we should go part-way, maybe to Paris!

Another time, after 17 years as a pastor, I admit with some shame, I lost 20 pounds in 12 months worrying about leaving the church in Ashland we loved so much to take the giant one in Akron.  Worrying about hurting feelings, but mostly,  What does God want me to do?

Proceed to today.  Now I like to give talks on the will of God, and try to free other people from the bondage and crush of their past pressures about “God’s will” as people defined it.

Here are my main points, in very abbreviated form, with high hopes they will be as freeing to you as they still are to me:

The Bible is God’s will for us.  Study it and obey it, because we are accountable for that.  We have freedom to choose in the areas not covered in the Bible.

“Love God and do as you please.”  (That’s a quote from Martin Luther — and you do know you should quote either him or C.S. Lewis or N.T. Wright at least once a month.)  And of course

Luther meant that when we love God we obey him as to his clear revealed Word, including its principles for applying and seeking wisdom.   And we will thank him for free will on matters of liberty, which by its very label says we are free to choose.

“You can’t make a mistake.”  That’s what my friend George said to me when he was helping me make a prison break from the worries ingrained in me from childhood, as I was deciding about Akron.  And he clearly meant what I now mean,  that if your motives are to glorify God and love others, you can and will do that no matter where you live or what you do.

“The windshield is often foggy but the rear-view mirror is clear.”   God is so great, kind, loving, and understanding, that he will guide us with his overall sovereignty and invisible shepherding, so that we will rejoice in our decisions and his will and our freedom all of our days. And we will know that he was with us, giving us the desires of our hearts.

“Well done, good and faithful servant.”   What we will hear when we see him, if we will put him first and not our handcuffs of tradition and worry.

You asked what is the good of August! (Not really)

I think every pastor should be sure of the following in August:

  • Sermon series for all fall and four Sundays of Christmas. (And four from Habakkuk fit so well with the hard questions of life, like Ukraine, China, pain, etc)
  • Simple goals for September through August, 2023!  Best based on your main values or missions statement.  Easy to form
  • What you will do Christmas Day, Sunday, this year.
    • Duplicate services Christmas Eve and Day so people come one or the other.
    • Sunday service on Saturday evening.  None Sunday morning or a video service they can watch with family.  (Three families will 🙂
    • Large churches: repeat services Friday and Saturday and maybe one or video Sunday.
    • Nothing that weekend.  Please reject this one.
  • Think through with oversight board the advantages of having fiscal year be September — August rather than calendar year.
  • Think through the oversight board’s review of the pastor and when and how.  (I have a really good one.)
  • See what day your wife thinks you should take as your day off this fall.  (If she says Sunday, take this as a flash warning.)
  • Read Deeper by Dane Ortlund.  Best book on personal growth.
  • Rethink your master schedule and allow someone like me to critique it.
  • Reevaluate staff meetings.
  • Make sure your personal discipleship group is starting with the TLC factor in mind– Time together,  Love,  Content of Scripture that meets the heart.  (I have a great two-year guide, all verses on church and character.)

Quick answer to quick question from a pastor about Roe decision

You’ve got to recognize that this (Roe overturned)  has happened.  Andthat it is a spiritual and emotional war cry for many.

  I would include in the pastoral prayer — that people would have a new view of life as given by God… And for peace in our states because of  anger and conflict.

You quoted me as not taking sides on politics. Indeed.   But I think this is  one issue that has become very political but is based on a view of life that is not political but scriptural. I would not be afraid to include it in the sermon and just say how the view  of life and the soul has so changed.

Jeremiah quotes God as saying,  “I formed you in your mother’s womb.”
See Psalm 139: 13-18.

Be tender and warm.  It is a very hard issue for many to speak about.   And many who trust Scripture are changing their minds, I fear.
It is a great time to be a shepherd!  Of love and truth!

The five most important pastor-leader issues I know

Believe in Jesus and His Word

As in honoring and teaching and practicing His ways and Word
As in preaching and teaching Christ-help rather than self-help
As in being known for love and the virtues of our Lord.

BYOL — Build Your Own Leaders and board of oversight

As in having your own true DAG (Discipleship-Accountability) Group and ways at the church

  • Instead of talking about “discipleship” or thinking all programs make it happen.
  • Instead of announcing “leadership training”
  • Instead of perpetual church bosses unless they can embrace an updated vision

As in having a workable model for one true board of oversight.

  • Instead of a calendar board or one that is a  building-grounds committee
  • Instead of duplicity of time with board and staff

Craft a good “Master Schedule” and work it!

As in scheduling your marriage and family and worship and exercise.
As in best use of 168 hours per week.

  • Instead of seeing what happens as you go.
  • Instead of majoring only on what we like to do

Give your best sermon ever!    Each time.
As in true exposition rather than self-help, and your best preparation time, and rather human but realistic understanding of keeping attention to reach the heart

Love your people.
As in the church and out…listening…smiling …. telling them…. showing them …. putting them first….knelling to talk to wheelchairs….thanking ….being there….

You asked if I would mention the tragedy in Texas this Sunday. Absolutely.

While Sunday is not to be a review of current events or a tragedy or an applause for something good that happened in the nation, this one hit so many hearts and has so many huge questions attached.

I would do one or more of these:

* Have a short section between songs of trust where you read a few verses + and then pray a prayer of faith that God will make all things come under his judgment someday, and for wisdom to believe His ways are best, and for comfort for the families …..and wisdom for lawmakers.

* Include it as a strong section of the P-R-A-Y (Praise, Repent or confess, Ask, Yield) pastoral prayer that the church and people need every week,   asking God for comfort and us for a godly view of life and evil.

* Refer to it as an aside or direct application of one of the verses you are exposing in the sermon.

* Have it immediately as part of the greetings and welcome with a prayer then for the suffering…to deal with the elephant in the room.

(* Include thoughts in your next monthly pastoral letter to your people.)

The pastor looks around to see what is happening to the sheep.

The Church and its leaders and servants

                       In the Bible, what is prescriptive
              about the church people and their leaders

Obviously you can’t pull every command out of the New Testament and make it apply to situation today. You can about character and about following Christ and what we believe. But not about systems of organization in the church.

Otherwise all women would be wearing head coverings and also be quiet in the church services, and all leaders must be older or elder!

There are cultural things. There are different sizes of churches. There are things that the elders did in the early church which was probably similar to our home groups.  That are not the exact same today.

One great helpful verse for an overview—Philippians 1:1:

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons.

        There it is!   Every position in the local church! :-).   Direct application for today!

“Christ Jesus”—the Head of the church, the one whom we are all to serve, worship

Paul and Timothy” — apostles and founders, whom we have today as writers

To all the saints” — all believers, set aside to be the saints, the priest-believers

“The overseers” — used interchangeable with pastors (shepherds),  elders, bishops

And deacons” —just means servants…help with tables, widows, youth group, etc.


But each person truly in Christ is a saint, set apart,  and then among all the saints in the local church are some asked to be

overseers — including full-time pastor-overseers who teach and shepherd; but also volunteer overseer elders who form a team or board to help oversee the boundaries and principles and goals of the church;

and also the deacons, men and women asked to serve by waiting on widows or teaching seventh grade boys on counting the money or visiting the needy!

The closing of the sermon and the worship service…

…is one of the most important times for someone who has paid attention and might think about changing some habit or belief in response. But, alas, I have heard the following closings to sermons:

  • “That’s it.  See you next week!”
  •  A prayer that reviews the sermon…..Amen….Guitar player gives some thoughts about the sermon, sometimes showing her was not listening….then starts a song.
  • “Shake hands with three people on the way out!”
  • “Let’s sing something — what shall we sing, Freddie?”

Years ago, many churches had a response song — often “Just As I Am” (as in a Billy Graham service)…..and some invited people to come to the front of the church room to show they wanted to “Accept Christ as Savior” or respond to “how God had spoken to them.”

Maybe in response to that, some went to the “alas” ways noted.

______Clearly a sermon is given to urge obedience and application to life.
______Clearly a pastor should think carefully about a response avenue.
______Consider the following:

Sermon (with practical obedience and application calls throughout) Prayer by sermon person
Not a review of the sermon to God, who does not need a review….

A brief prayer++ of worship and appreciation to God for the main truth given…then giving people a private quiet moment to thank God for that gift, or to ask His help to obey and apply it…..(Many will actually pray that way…)

Then a moment of quiet prayer introduced by, “If you are not sure of this connection with Christ as Lord and Savior, ask God for help to go that way, and to be sure….(Quiet moment)…. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Then, to show the chosen response song is tied to the sermon,  not a separate issue or a production number but a response-from-the-heart song, the speaker intros the song in two or three sentences….and asks, “Please stand” as short intro to song immediately starts…. And the speaker sings it also.   Maybe even stays up front to sing along with the people, for he is responding also, and helping others to respond with thanks to God and obedient faith. This also positions the pastor-speaker to give a meaningful benediction or blessing from the Word of God to tie together the whole worship service, followed by a sentence of care or sendoff.

++(To remember: I have watched a lot of closing prayers on video and “playback” where the praying pastor is straightening his notes and closing his Bible or moving his lectern out of the way, causing me and other cynical viewers to wonder if he is really praying :-). Of course you can pray while you drive or do something,  but this is about leading the church and viewers in worship and response.)

Seems like the closing
of the service should be carefully
thought through and purposeful.

Written for a friend facing life-or-death surgery; any suggestions?



Over 75% of Americans say in polls they believe Jesus is the Son of God. Fully 100% of demons, those fallen and evil angels, believe that also. So what is it God wants us to believe?

There are two huge aspects:

1. Jesus is the eternal son of God who lived a perfect life on earth, then died as a substitute for us. He was paying the holy penalty for my sins and yours.

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his death” —Romans 3:25.

In the Old Testament it was, “Put your hand on the head of the lamb, son.” (A parent said that— a symbol of faith, of placing your sins on the lamb who would die.). Jesus is called “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world”! (John 1:29).

When we place our faith in Jesus the Christ, we are believing this – admitting our sins and trusting who he is and what he did for us when he died. And then arose from the dead to show it worked! 🙂

That is a deliberate decision of the will, to trust Jesus Christ and not ourselves.

That gets us from minus millions – I speak of my own sins – to zero! But no one goes to heaven with a zero. You have to be perfect to go to heaven. But wait! Perfect is a gift from God.

2, When we honestly place our faith in Christ, trusting for sure number 1 above, the Bible pronounces that our faith is counted as righteousness (Romans 4:5).

In other words, our faith brings a cover of the perfect and holy righteousness of Christ to be put on us in God’s sight. God sees us as perfect before him because we are believing in Christ, covered by the Savior, whose “bank account” of perfect righteousness is credited to us!

The Savior — this is gorgeous but hard to believe — counts us as one with him, and counts us in on his righteousness.

This righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” — Romans 3:22.

It is almost unbelievable; for sure it is wonderful. It is called grace, a free gift. It is the direct opposite of our hoping we are good enough on our own, in front of a holy God.

So when we for sure trust Jesus Christ this way,
1. God counts his Son’s death as payment for our penalty. Paid in full!
2. More, he counts the 100% perfect righteousness of his Son as covering us in his holy sight.

No wonder this is all called the gospel, the good news.