Blog Archives

Reaching out to Bees and Moths

Bee attracted to sweet nectar

Sweet nectar attracts bees, and people too!

Bees are attracted to sweet nectar, and moths are attracted to light. People are attracted to other people who love them, who are kind to them, who truly accept them for who they are. People who shine the grace filled the light of Christ into their lives.

It is sad to me that I still see an exclusive, sectarian, judgmental, even superior attitude in many Christians and churches. Why is this? Do we as Followers of Christ have it all together? Are we above reproach at all times? I know I’m not, and it seems to me that if we choose to believe that of ourselves, and let others believe that about us, then we are no better than the “Pharisees and Teachers of the Law” of Jesus’ day.

Jesus said, “Come to me.” He didn’t say get it all together, dress a certain way, clean up your language, be a teetotaler, etc., and then come to me. He said come to me and let my love heal you, restore you. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

This whole train of thought came about when I recently read the below article by Jud Wilhite.

Neither Do I Condemn You
By Jud Wilhite

I talked to a guy recently who was really lamenting that fact that more pastors aren’t preaching hellfire, brimstone and condemnation. He felt like the problem with Christianity is that everybody just believes God loves you.
Really? As I talk with people in Las Vegas who are not Christians, as well as many who are, I find lots of people who already believe God hates them or at best tolerates them. Like the guy with the tattoo that said, “God hates us all.” To me this isn’t news, it is assumed.
The good news is that God loved us so much he sent his son to die in our place and take the punishment for sin. This is the greatest picture of love and it implies that yes… God loves us!
It’s like one of my favorite stories in John 8 where we read about a woman whose encounter with Jesus teaches us about guilt, grace, and forgiveness. She was dragged before Jesus by religious leaders who angrily throw her in front of him. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (John 8:4-5)
Stone faces and stones in their hands. The woman must have been so terrified and embarrassed. In moments, she was exposed and hurled onto death row. From secret delight to public humiliation. The accusation – guilty of adultery – punishable by death.
This whole scene is fishy to begin with, though. How does one happen to catch someone in the act of adultery? And it takes two to tango – so where is this man? He is equally guilty. Maybe he was paid off to set her up or he could have been friends with these religious leaders. One thing is for sure – the religious leaders were using this question as a trap so they could have a basis for accusing Jesus (John 8:6). Rather than offering the woman help, they set her up. She had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and her guilt was real.
At first, Jesus did not respond to the religious leaders’ accusations. He bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger. This is the only record of Jesus writing. People have speculated that he wrote the sins of the religious leaders gathered around. Some say he wrote Scripture. Maybe he just doodled!
As he knelt, the leaders kept questioning him; they planned to snare Jesus in a catch-22. If he sentenced the woman to death, the Roman government would intervene. They alone determined an execution. If Jesus condoned a stoning, he might lose popularity. The crowd had followed him and had been attracted to his compassion. But if he told the leaders to let her go, they would accuse him of violating an Old Testament law.
They thought they had him cornered. But Jesus rose and spoke one of the most profound statements of Scripture: “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). Then he knelt down and continued writing.
What followed? Silence. A few awkward moments of anger turning to introspection. The rocks fell to the ground one at a time. By moving the focus off of the woman, Jesus had forced them to see their own guilt. He wasn’t concerned about the woman’s innocence, but rather that she was treated fairly. If she was to be judged, the witnesses were to come forth and be just and impartial (Deuteronomy 19:15-19). And the religious leaders were neither of those things. Jesus was not trying to throw out the process of law and legal procedure, but rather exposing the trial as a sham!
Once everyone had left and Jesus was alone with the woman, he asked, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replies with, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus declared… “Then neither do I condemn you” (John 8:10-11).
Beautiful words from the lips of a Savior. He came not to condemn the world but to save the world (John 3:17). He showed her pure, unmerited, undeserved grace. We are quick to judge, but what accusations could be leveled at us? This story gives us caution. Too often Christians, and churches, shoot their wounded. When people fail, they need to be restored with a heart of compassion. It’s too easy to judge people who don’t have our particular sin struggle.
It’s time to show grace. The same grace Christ offers us, despite all of our short-comings. The grace he offers everyone.

Looking at the idea of Grace verses Judgement from a church growth point of view, if bees are attracted to sweet nectar, and moths are attracted to light, is your church, are you, projecting sweetness and light in a way that says, “ I’m still on this journey too; lets walk together”? Because remember, Church growth is not about numbers, but it’s about seeking and saving the lost.

Until next Time:

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28 – 30

Step Back to Move Forward

Step back growth

Step back, Re-focus, Move on

On the Australian coat of arms is a picture of an emu and a kangaroo. These animals were chosen because they share a characteristic that appealed to our forefathers. Both the emu and kangaroo can move only forward, not back. The emu’s three-toed foot causes it to fall if it tries to go backwards, and the kangaroo is prevented from moving in reverse by its large tail.

I love this illustration; I am all about moving forward, keeping your eyes on the goal, never give up, but I have learned that sometimes you have to take a step to move forward. Everyone, whether it be in business, your personal life, church growth, will hit a slump or get a curve ball. When that happens we get the opportunity to pause and reevaluate. The article below is a great illustration of someone stepping back to move forward.

Efrain Escudero Looking back to move forward
By Jordan Newmark April 08, 2012

When a professional athlete rebounds from a slump or a setback, the easiest conclusion to jump to is that they added something “new”. A change in routine, mindset, workout, technique or anything that has been recently tweaked by the world’s latest and greatest ideas.

For many, this is the case, but for others, like UFC lightweight Efrain Escudero, rediscovering what they did in the past is how they progressed in the future. For “Hecho en Mexico”, the journey back to the Octagon was accomplished by fighting for the reason that originally drew Escudero to the sport: because it was fun. … “I went back and saw my old tapes, my old highlight videos, and what I did in them – I had fun,” states Escudero. “Every time I went to the cage I was having fun. I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t nervous, I was ready to have fun. Getting called back up to the UFC, I had fun having to bust my butt again to get back where I belong.” 

Recently, we had a couple of key staff members move on for very positive, personal reasons. When this happened we knew we would have to make some major changes, so we took this opportunity to step back, not to dwell in a pity party, but in keeping our eyes on our goals, to pause, redirect and move forward again. We are truly excited about our new structure and direction. We are expecting great things to happen!

So while we may at times pause and step back our constant direction over time is forward.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Plan backwards as well as forward. Set objectives and trace back to see how to achieve them. You may find that no path can get you there. Plan forward to see where your steps will take you, which may not be clear or intuitive. – Donald Rumsfeld

Easter, Word of Mouth and the Invite Card

Invite at Easter

At Easter - Word of Mouth is Still the Best Invite Tool

I came across this article by Executive Pastors Online, and it truly could have been written by someone here at South Hills

The #1 Cause Of Church Growth

Over our almost 12 year history, we’ve had the following measure in place: How Did You Find Out About CCV?

You would think our website, visibility from the major highway running through our target area, or direct mail advertising would be The #1 Cause Of Church Growth. Nope. Not even close.

Are you familiar with the use of Pareto Analysis as part of any continuous improvement process? I know, it sounds technical! It’s pretty basic, though. It’s a bar graph, arranged from highest bar to lowest bar. The purpose of the analysis is to determine and illustrate the “highest contributing cause” of something. In this case the graph shows the highest contributing cause of church growth.

By far and away it’s “Invited By A Friend Or Family Member.” Surprised? Sometimes I think we underestimate the significance of “a person with skin on them” personally inviting their friend or family member to church.

OK. So now what? What do we do with this knowledge? The first step is understanding that the people who are attending our churches are our best tool for growing our church. Now, we must do a number of things to equip them and help them succeed.

First, we must put a service together that our people wouldn’t be embarrassed about asking someone to attend. In addition, we must create a warm and welcoming environment. The list is long and requires us to re-think everything about our churches. And, in most cases the stuff we must do is difficult and takes a significant amount of time to get in place.

But there’s one thing we can do that’s pretty easy. The Invite Card. Yes, it’s a simple business card sized tool that we can print for our people that equips them to simply hand someone a card that provides the needed information. Here’s an example:

CCV Easter Invite Card Front The #1 Cause Of Church Growth
CCV Easter Invite Card Back The #1 Cause Of Church Growth
We print a whole bunch of these cards and hand them out at church services for several weeks leading up to Easter. It’s that simple.

The Invite Card we have at South Hills for Easter looks like this…

Easter invite cardEaster invite
We also have coordinating invites for Good Friday and  our community Easter Egg Hunt. We create invite cards or flyers for nearly every new sermon series and special event. It is just a simple way for people to invite friend, family, or the person they just met to come to church. It is also helpful that they have all of the details such as service times right there on the card.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

80% of people surveyed said they would attend church if invited. – Barna Research

Ministering from a Place of Rest

be still

Take time to rest

At our most recent Celera Roundtable, one of the coaches, Dave Stone, was speaking to us about “ministering from a place of rest.”  Picture this, a room full of pastors from across the country, most of them lead pastors, hearing the passionate plea to take time to rest. If you are a pastor of a growing church, or any church for that matter, you know the irony in that.  Dave broke down several areas that he takes time for rest in his own life. First, he makes sure to take a day off every week. Not a half day or a few hours here and there, a whole day. That was the first area of conviction for me. Then he made the jaw dropping statement that he, Dave Stone, pastor of one of the largest churches in the country, takes the entire month of July off! You could hear the collective gasp in the room.  Not only does he take the month off, his board of Elders forbids him to even step foot on campus during that month.

Some time after that conference I was speaking to my executive Pastor, Jared Dunn, and it was mutually decided (actually Jared insisted) that I take the month of July off. After some initial reluctance, I agreed. So for the first time in my life I took an entire month off from work, and it was fantastic. I had some great time with my family, and a lot of great time to rest and gather my strength (physical, mental and spiritual) for the push ahead.

I am back now and ready to take off running. I came across this article on Focus on the Family, and I wanted to share a portion of it with you. You can read the entire article at Focus on the Family. These are principles that can be applied not just to pastor or people in church leadership, but in every area of life.

The pastor’s need to rest and retreat

Written by Jerry Ritskes

When you get asked how you are, do you find yourself proudly (but with some frustration) answering that you are “busy”? There is a world to win, programs to organize, people to train and a church to maintain. No wonder ministry is so busy. We are short on finances, people and time. It seems the only way to make it is to work a little bit harder.

Eugene Peterson, in his book The Contemplative Pastor, makes this almost absurd statement “that the adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a  banker.” Can he really mean this? Isn’t busyness a sign that I’m making a difference for the kingdom? Isn’t it proof that I’m being a good and faithful steward? I don’t think so. I believe that busyness takes pastors away from what they are truly called to do.

Driven to busyness

I have often been so busy with “doing ministry” that I have no time to be with God. How silly is this? Peter Scazzero, in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, identifies this as one of the top 10 symptoms of emotionally unhealthy spirituality – “doing for God instead of being with God.” Driving ourselves into busyness could be a sign that we’re trying to earn God’s approval, counter poor self-worth, quieten the negative self-talk we’ve been listening to, or we feel that saving the world is our responsibility. For whatever reason, we keep driving ourselves into doing more – and it makes truly hearing God’s voice very difficult.

Sabbath

The principle of the Sabbath is extremely important. Sabbath is a time to stop our work, not when it is completed, but when we need to stop. It is pacing our lives and recognizing our human limitations.  Sabbath frees us from the need to obtain God’s acceptance by being productive. It is resting from our efforts, and trusting God’s.

Our congregations not only look to us to teach them with our sermons, they are looking to us to as an example of what it means to walk with Christ. When they see us going “mach 10 with our hair on fire,” they interpret that as what a believer should do. We inadvertently teach that it is somehow not enough to enjoy being a child of God.  As a pastor, when I take time to slow down or even stop, this reaffirms to others that “there is a Saviour, but it is not me.”
Listening

I love the word-picture Ruth Haley Barton gives us in Invitation to Silence and Solitude. Our lives are like a jar of river water – agitated and murky. As soon as you stop moving the jar and let it sit, the sediment begins to settle and it becomes clearer. When we take time for quiet, the sediment in our lives begins to settle, and the things God is trying to tell us becomes clearer. When we take time to listen to God’s voice, He helps us to find perspective on what He is calling us to do, rather than on what we feel compelled to do.

Making the time

I’ve often said “I’d like to take a breather, but I can’t seem to make it happen. It’s just too busy.” While there are seasons in our schedule that require more time and attention than others, there is still the need to keep ourselves in tune with our Creator. Here is a “low-tech” but effective way of making time for rest and listening: Plan it. All you have to do is put it into your schedule, like you would schedule any other demand on your time, and then keep it. When something comes up that conflicts with the time you’ve planned, you can say “I’m sorry, but I’m booked then. Can we find some other time?” Unless we are intentional about taking time to be quiet before the Lord, and unless we can do it without feeling guilty, we will never really find the time to do it.

When I take time to rest and listen to God’s voice, what happens? I begin to hear His calming voice that tells me I’m His beloved child. I begin to find a “Holy balance” to my life. I become more of who He made me to be, and not nearly so concerned with performing to gain people’s approval. As The Message paraphrases Matthew 11:28-29, I begin to live “freely and lightly.”

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. – Mark 6:30-32

The Importance of Children’s Ministry

importance of children

Place a high value on the children in your church

Here at South Hills Church kids are a very big deal. If fact we are determined to make our church “The premier place for Families” and the first step is to fully embrace the children in our community. To that end, recently we needed to hire a new children’s pastor, and so we scoured the country to find the very best we could get. We found that person in Justyn Smith.  Justyn has recently been named one of “Children’s Ministry Magazine’s” Top 20 to Watch, and with his help, we are looking forward to taking our “Kidmin” to a whole new level. Here are some thoughts from Pastor Justyn on the importance of Children’s ministry.

How Important is Children’s ministry?

How important is children’s ministry? How about if you don’t reach people with the gospel by the time someone turns the age of 12 there is only a 20% chance that person will ever become a Christ follower. Yet, only 13% of senior pastors list “ministry to children” among their church’s top three priorities.

Children’s ministry is one of the most important ministries in the church. It’s important because they are our kids. They are the leaders and movement shakers of tomorrow. Children’s ministry cannot be just a babysitting service. Children’s ministry should have the church’s best and brightest teachers and leaders. We all want the best for our children, yet we grow complacent with accepting anyone with a pulse to teach our kids. It’s not a time to become self-indulgent. We have been commissioned and entrusted by God to train of the next generation.

Children’s ministry is an equipping ground; it’s a time where kids should get together to celebrate God and reinforce the teachings of Christ that they should be receiving at home. If they’re not receiving godly teaching at home, then it’s a place of hope and love where we should be reaching out and become a Christ-like figure for those kids.

The healthy, growing churches of today all have at least this one thing in common—great children’s ministries. They have invested in the next generation. They have poured resources, money and time into creating a culture where kids—our future—are valued and celebrated. These church’s understand that children’s ministry is vital to the continuation of the mission God has placed inside of them. They have chosen to look beyond themselves and today and instead look outward and what lies ahead tomorrow.

For some larger church’s who have the ability to pour major money into their children’s ministry atmospheres have seen up to a 150% increase in church attendance. That means thousands more people—not just kids—are coming to church to hear about Jesus and grow deeper in their relationship with Him.

We are already seeing exciting changes in the couple of months since Justyn has joined us. In addition to the great things Justyn is doing on our church campus, he is also helping us to put Celera Kidmin in place.

Celera Kidmin was created to equip and empower children’s leaders by sharing resources for the kingdom. We are very excited that Celera Kidmin coaches are some of the greatest leaders and innovators in children’s ministry today, and those that are part of a Celera Coaching group will have access to their knowledge and direction on a monthly basis.

In addition to the monthly coaching Celera Kidmin members will receive:

One-on-one coaching
During the course of the twelve month pastors’ coaching series each participant will receive two one-on-one coaching sessions with Pastor Justyn Smith.

Annual Roundtable Discussion
Once a year you will have the opportunity to come together in a live setting with your and other network groups and one or two of the Celera Kidmin coaches for a full day of discussion and connection.

Free and discounted resources
Over the course of a twelve month subscription each participant will receive a variety of free resources from the Celera Kidmin coaches.

I strongly encourage you that if Children’s ministry is not yet a priority in your church to do so. It is our great desire to reach kids for Christ and to help Kidmin leaders better meet the need of the kids in their communities. If you would like more information on how we can help you please contact us at info@celeragroup.org. Or call us at 951-734-4833.

Until next time.,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6

Equipping the Smaller Church for Growth

equip small church

Helping to Equip Small Churches

Here at Celera it is our goal to “Raise the national average of church attendance.” We do this by equipping and resourcing pastors and churches around the country and now extending globally. Dan Reiland is one of our Celera coaches and is also the Executive Pastor at 12 Stone Church in Georgia.  Dan recently wrote the below article regarding equipping churches to grow and more effectively function as a church in reaching people for Christ. He lays out great instructions, that if followed your church will grow.

“Equipping in the Smaller Church”
by Dan Reiland

“Preach and visit.” Does that sound familiar to you? That’s not only the framework of ministry in thousands of smaller churches, it is the expectation. Teaching the Word of God and shepherding the congregation is obviously a good thing. How that gets done is another thing entirely.

In many smaller church settings the pastors come and go every few years and the board and key leaders “run” the church. There is an obvious expectation for the pastor to teach on Sunday morning, visit the sick and provide pastoral care for the members. I’ve actually seen this in job descriptions, including “the board will take care of the direction and business of the church.”

I’m not writing with an edge. My reference to good volunteer leaders who love their pastor(s) and are fully dedicated to their church. They love God and work hard in their church. These are good churches, doing good things, but they remain small. Even that isn’t bad or wrong by itself, but if we are honest about it, God does intend for churches to grow.

One of the primary ways to help a church grow is to equip (train) the people to serve in the church and release the pastor to get other things done, including partnering with the board in the real “running” (leadership) of the church. This process increases the “muscle” of the church, making the church stronger and increasing its capacity to reach more people. The picture is simple. One person can pick up 50 pounds, one hundred people can pick up 5,000 pounds.

Change your thinking

Your church is on the right track if more than just the faithful few begin to serve. But here’s the big test. If you hear people say “I’m helping Pastor with his ministry” (or statements like that), the congregation doesn’t yet have the right idea and equipping will never find it’s true place in your church.

Ephesians 4:11-13 makes it clear that the Pastor is the one to help the people accomplish their work in ministry! “11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

As the pastor, your job is to build up the people and train them for meaningful ministry. It’s not about getting people to “get stuff done”. The big idea is about building up the body of Christ and developing spiritual maturity. When you, the staff, and key leaders believe this biblical principle, it can then be taught to the congregation. And more than taught, it needs to become part of the DNA of your church, meaning literally, part of who you are.

Change your approach

Don’t be the hero, be the coach. As you saw in Ephesians 4, the pastor functions more like the coach who is responsible to train his team to win, rather than being the star of the team. It’s very tempting to listen to the people tell you how good your sermon was, and tell you that they don’t know what they would have done without your presence in the last crisis they experienced. If that sounds like your experience, I’m glad you love your people, but your ministry will grow exponentially if you stop trying to do everything, and train others to serve.

Don’t ask the people to help, instead, invite them to participate in what God has planned for them. If, for example, you print in the bulletin that you are desperate for helpers in the nursery, the congregation will experience that in a negative way. (You don’t have to use the word desperate for the people to feel it that way.) Some churches force people to “work” in the nursery, if they want to use the nursery. I have a better suggestion. Invite people to participate in the big vision that God has in mind through the personal expression He has planned for each person. Ephesians 2:8-10 makes it clear. “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

When you invite people to ministry, invite big. If you see people through the eyes of God you will see more potential, believe in them and empower them for greater responsibility. It’s usually wise to give a little responsibility at a time, but don’t hold back if someone is doing well. Make the people the hero’s. Brag on them from the platform on Sundays. Tell stories of how lives are being changed because the people are rising up and serving!

Change your practice

Start with the big picture in mind. Work yourself out of a job. That’s not literal, but almost. Working yourself out of a job doesn’t mean that you surrender overall spiritual leadership, communication on Sunday mornings, responsibility for raising money in the church (stewardship), and responsibility as primary evangelist. But there are dozens of other things you can give away, and should!

You can do some of this by one on one coaching. Take people with you when you do ministry and show them how. From printing the bulletin to visiting people in the hospital, they can do it! Candidly, there is very little the people in your church can’t do. It starts with you seeing them differently. They may not all be “10” leaders. Start with what you have. This is what God has given you. Grow them up and train them! You might be surprised how well the people you have can serve and lead!

You can also do this in groups. (large and small) Help people in your congregation discover their spiritual gifts. There are many spiritual gifts tests available today. I’ve written one that you can get from injoy.com. Pick one that you like and get it in the hands of your people. Let your congregation know the opportunities available. Don’t “beg” for someone to assume the student ministry. Cast vision for someone to make a difference in the next generation! If you need several ushers, let them know how vital this role is to the preparation of a moment that God will speak to the people during a Sunday service. You get the idea!

Let people experiment with different ministries. If they know they are not locked-in for life, they are more apt to try more options and find the one they truly love. Make sure they get the training they need, encourage them much and thank them often for all they do.

This process doesn’t take place overnight, especially if your congregation 20 years old or more. It requires an intentional approach that might take you a good 12-18 months before you begin to see real change in the congregation. So, don’t look for quick and easy results. One sermon won’t do it. Stay in the game. Get the key leaders on board with you and begin the incredible ride of multiplying your leadership by equipping the church to serve.

Until Next Time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“We must open the doors of opportunity. But we must also equip our people to walk through those doors.”
– Lyndon B. Johnson

Handshake excerpt – Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens focus

Jesse Owens chose to be focused

Following is an excerpt from chapter 2 of Handshake.  This chapter is based on the life of Jesse Owens, and his unwavering choice to remain focused on his dreams despite the obstacles thrown in his path.  I am looking forward to your feedback.

Jesse Owens: The Choice of Focus

Three world records shattered.  One tied.  The world was introduced to “Jesse” with the megaphone of monumental focus.  It seemed that making a way to win when there was a world of odds against him became his signature.  Perhaps it was a complex metaphor of his own life; winning against all odds because of a determination birthed from focus.

News of Jesse’s unbelievable performance spread through the country and with the Olympics only a year away, Americans began to pin their hopes on the star from Ohio State.  Jesse continued to train, overcoming obstacles, and defeating odds that would cause most people to quit.

He believed in himself.
He believed in his dream.
He never lost focus.

… Jesse Owens was different.  Jesse chose to be focused and it served him well in his career as an athlete.

People cannot become great in the future if they are not willing to practice focus in the present.  Owens didn’t wake up one day in his mid-twenties and say “I’m going to be a Gold Medalist.”  He decided early on in life that he would use his God-given talent and mix it with self discipline.  This was his edge.

FIVE LESSONS ABOUT FOCUS THAT YOU WILL LEARN FROM JESSE OWENS:

  • Know and Choose What You Want
  • Determine What It Will Take To Get There
  • Think “Can” not “Cannot”
  • Find a Focus Coach
  • When Knocked Down, Get Up


Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.
– Tony Robbins

Growing with Multiple Church Sites

satellite church campus

Satellite locations can be a great way to expand your church

There are many great reasons for using a multi-site approach when it comes to church growth.  Satellite campuses can be a great way to plant a church in a new community without starting completely from scratch. Satellite campus are also a great way to expand when you have outgrown your main church campus. For example, at South Hills we were maxed out in our Sunday services, so we launched a satellite campus at a local high school.

There are also many ways to conduct a satellite campus. Currently, the high school is close enough that we staggered our service times, and I speak at both locations.  When our satellite location was further away, we recorded the message given at our Saturday evening service, and that was shown at the satellite on Sunday morning.  Mark Batterson has been a forerunner in the multi-site church approach, and I have included some incites from his blog regarding the why and how his church approaches the multi-site model.

Multi-Site Model

We continue the Gospel series this weekend. All of our campus pastors are teaching live! Two of them are teaching for the first time at NCC!

In our multi-site model, we have have one teacher each weekend. We have 3-4 live messages and 6-7 video messages. I preach about 36 times per year. Joel Schmidgall and Heather Zempel, our Executive Pastor and Discipleship Pastor, form our teaching team and they teach about 10-12 times times collectively. And our Campus Pastors teach live once a quarter. We honestly don’t have many guests speakers, though we do try to get my friend and mentor, Dick Foth, in the pulpit whenever he is in town. In fact, he is an ad hoc member of our teaching team.

For what it’s worth, I used to teach 48-50 times per year in the early days, but I didn’t feel like it was a sustainable pace for me because of my various callings and commitments. I also think it’s valuable for our congregation to hear different voices. A teaching team is more stereophonic.

Your Responsiblity = Their Opportunity

I think one role of leadership is creating opportunities for others. If you do everything yourself, your potential is limited to your abilities. I know that sounds obvious, but the obvious eludes us! If you’re doing things that others can do 80% as well as you can, then you are not just wasting your time. You are wasting other’s gifts! Think of it this way: your responsibility = someone else’s opportunity!

If you learn to unleash others and create opportunities for them to step into their gifts, then your potential for impact multiplies exponentially. That’s one reason I love multi-site. It forces us to raise us six times as many people to use their gifts.

I think today was such a great example of that principle. Mike Whitford, our new campus pastor at Ebenezers, preached for the first time. Kurtis Parks, our new campus pastor at our Potomac Yard location, preached for the first time. And Travis Mason, a new NCC protege, led worship for the first time. So proud of them. Few things are as emotionally rewarding to me as seeing people step into their gifts with holy confidence and letting God use them!

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.

-Andrew Carnegie

Risking to outreach

community outreach

South Hills Church 2nd Annual Food Drive

This past Saturday we hosted our second annual food drive/day of outreach. Don’t let the name fool you. Community outreach is something we feel very passionately about here at South Hills. This is just one special day where we stretch ourselves to further reach out to our community.

On that one day the South Hills family fed 409 families that represented 2,300 people.  On that day we also provided clothing, haircuts and connected people to free job skills classes from Smooth Transition. Many families said “thank you so much, we have no food in our home.”  And “Thank you so much, this is a months’ worth of food for our family.”

Also the staff and volunteers had blast!  Here is what one volunteer said:

“My time spent serving the community was one of the most fulfilling experiences in my life.  Several times throughout the day I felt the Lords presence and Him overwhelming me with total joy.  I caught myself having to stop several times so that I could gather my emotions.  God is awesome!”

It was a fantastic day!

So why did we do this?  Because we have made a commitment to “Raise Your Risk for the Disadvantaged” We want to be the flesh of Christ to literally touch people with His love.

Why am I telling you this? To toot our own horn? Well maybe a little. I am very proud of all of our staff, volunteers, and contributors who made this day happen. They worked well and gave big. But equal to that, I want to encourage you to reach out to those in your community who need a loving hand up.

I want to encourage you to be a church that demonstrates a gigantic, God-sized faith. Jesus said, if you love me, you’ll do what I ask. So what did he ask us to do? Seek & save the lost. Serve “the least of these.” Go and make disciples, baptize them. Go farther than your church, farther than your own town, help the church in the next county or another state or even on the other side of the world. These are the radical ideas of our RISK Project.

We raise our risk level when we’re willing to get our hands dirty to meet the needs of the needy. We raise our risk level when we decide to cross the line to have a conversation with a friend to bring them to Christ. We raise our risk level when we say I’ll sacrifice to give more dollars to help other churches grow, to leverage our resources for maximum impact. When you demonstrate a radical risk of faith, incredible things will happen.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTES OF THE DAY

“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Wiling is not enough, we must do.”
– TJohann Wolfgang Von Goethe

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If you speak, you should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If you serve, you should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”     – 1 Peter 4: 10-11

Loving and Leading the youth of the “Next Generation”

happy teens

Reach out to the youth in your community and encourage them to Thrive


On the Weekend of July 3rd and 4th South Hills Church vibrated with a new energy, an energy and vitality that comes from youth who are on fire and passionately following Christ. For it was on that weekend that “Remnant Youth” took over all of South Hills services. Beginning in our Saturday night service and carrying through all of our Sunday mourning services, the youth and youth staff took over or assisted in every aspect our services.  From ushering, to leading worship, to announcements they were there, and not just physically but in a very real, connected, vibrant way. Finally, our fabulous Youth Pastor Chris Harrell (affectionately known as PCH) gave the message. It was an amazing weekend!

So now you may be asking, why? Why would we trust our weekend services to a bunch of kids and a youth pastor? There are several reasons.  First of all we take reaching out to the youth in our church and our community very seriously, and the reason for this is…

  • Research from Barna states “That young adults between 17 and 35 make up approximately 35% of our population nationally, but within our churches, most are lucky if they average 10%.

Secondly, teens and young adults are passionate and want to share that passion. Under the right leadership that passion can be directed to do amazing things. Here at South Hills we have made having the right leadership a very high priority and now have an amazing team of staff and volunteers to love on and guide these kids. Their passion in our services is contagious, with their uninhibited praise of the God they love. Also, most often youth thrive when given responsibility. When they are trusted with something big and given the right tools and guidance to complete the task, I have seen truly great things happen.  This 4th of July weekend was no exception.

I asked Pastor Chris Harrell to sum up the why and how of Remnant Youth, and the following is what he had to say…

Remnant: A group that remains after the majority no longer exists.

At South Hills, our youth or Next Generation ministry (this includes Jr. High through the 20 something crowd) is called Remnant. We, as Remnant, desire to be what is left from what Jesus originally asked of His followers. Most of what is thought of Christianity or ‘church people’ isn’t really biblically accurate. We want to redefine what our culture believes about Jesus and His Church… and by church, we do not mean the building, but the people who enter the doors. At Remnant we call our ‘services’, gatherings, because it’s a ‘church’ that is gathering rather than a ‘service’ they are getting. At South Hills, our leadership believes in raising up the Next Generation and actually gave us COMPLETE freedom over an entire set of weekend services. I can NOT bold, underline or italicize how much of an impact this had on our young people. They KNOW they are believed in, supported and encouraged to be all God has them to be.

It is our goal at Remnant that we will be known for our love above all else and we will celebrate everyone because everyone matters!

We believe Jesus meant it when he said to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) and “They will know you are my disciples when you love one another” (John 13:35)

For too long the message of love and grace has not been found amongst Christians, but instead the opposite was to be expected… hate and condemnation. We have made this our priority; to love without judging, no strings attached. Our generation (teens, tweens and 20s) is seeking truth, seeking transparency, seeking that which is genuine. And so we are transparent, we offer truth, and strive to be genuine.

We have found that when you offer unconditional belonging to a generation who is used to circumstantial love, that walls will fall, voices will be heard and hearts will be opened. This is where the church must invite people, including the youth, to come to and then be ready to journey with those who come.

I’d love to tell you all the stories. I’d tell you about girls who were Atheist and now believe in Christ, and are learning how to walk their mom through her fight with breast cancer. I’d tell you of the cutters who have given us erasers and blades as a surrender to the healing power of Christ. All would say they thought church was so outdated, irrelevant, or just not for them. But love is for everybody. So at Remnant, they realize that the church is for them, and they are for the church. Countless students who wanted nothing to do with God or church, have again found themselves surrounded by a love they could not explain… and months later have discovered what it means to be a part of a family. Students have walked away from addictions, girls have found their identity as daughters of God, relationships have been healed, and young men have learned who they are in Christ instead of how cool or popular they are at school. It’s not a perfect group of people…quite the opposite. That’s how we know that it’s healthy….alive…moving….and changing lives.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12