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First Impressions

First impressions

Ushers and greeters are your church’s first impression.

I’m sure you have all heard the saying that you only get one chance to make a first impression. It is true in your personal life, and it is true in your church.   An area of serving that is often overlooked in churches is that of Usher.  Not everyone can be an usher. Just as not everyone can be a worship leader, work in child care, repair the building, or preach the sermon. We each have our unique God given gifts, and that includes people who are wired to be good ushers. I love how well Dan Reiland outlines the importance and “how to’s” of the usher ministry in the article below.

“Your Usher Ministry”

by Dan Reiland

One of my favorite ministries to lead is the usher team. Their role is so important, but often undervalued, undertrained, and less than organized.

The ushers are a huge force in setting the tone for worship and helping to prepare the people to hear and respond to the Word of God.

I’m pulling a portion of the training notes for our usher team and adapting for this article. If you would like the full usher training manual (free) CLICK HERE!

An usher is a spiritual ambassador for the local church – God’s ordained and organized body of believers. The usher serves as a “first representative” of Jesus Christ for a worship service. Though we thoroughly enjoy the creative edge of our worship services, make no mistake, this is a holy event where God is meeting with His people.

From the tabernacle in the Old Testament to the temple and synagogue in the New Testament, God’s presence and the teaching of His word is of supreme importance.

Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Exodus 40:34

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Mark 1:21-22

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. John 8:2

Who Can Serve as an Usher?

Not just anyone can be an usher. In the same way that not just anyone can sing in the choir, work in children’s ministry or lead a small group. The right gifts, passion, and ability make a big difference.

As you recruit new ushers keep spiritual qualities, characteristics and usher responsibilities in mind. Please make sure you work in coordination with your section leader or a service leader rather than practicing “random recruiting.”

The fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23 is a solid guideline for a good usher. This is not about perfection, but a heartfelt motive and desire to live a life of a spirit-filled believer.

Qualifications of an Usher

• You understand the vital role of the usher ministry.

• You enjoy and care about people.

• You possess a servant heart.

• You are committed to the vision of “your church name.”

• You are supportive of the leadership at “your church name.”

Responsibilities of an Usher

1. Committed leadership

• Prepare yourself spiritually.

A good usher comes prepared mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. This is not to be seen as a duty, but a privilege to connect with God as part of your preparation. Don’t feel like this requires an hour of Bible study before you show up. God is far more interested in the commitment of your heart than the amount of your time. Take a few moments at home to connect with God and ask Him to use you as a representative of His love and an agent of His redemptive plan.

• Take initiative!

This is huge. The cardinal sin of an usher is to not pay attention. At all times watch what is going on in your section and jump in to handle it. If you aren’t sure what to do, ask your section leader. The only wrong choice is to do nothing. Never assume “someone” else is taking care of the need. Pay attention, take initiative, and make it happen!!

• Absorb the pressure of the moment, don’t transfer it.

Most of the ministry of an usher is pure joy. Seriously, it’s a lot of fun. But on occasion there are moments of pressure when someone is upset or something isn’t working right. In these moments never transfer the pressure to the person entering into their worship experience. You are the leader. You absorb the pressure. Get help if you need it, but never make the issue their problem. You help deliver a solution.

• Own your section, lead your section, shepherd your section.

This is exciting. In an average environment with average ushers, once the seats are filled the ushers relax and mentally check out. As a leader you are empowered to take ownership of the area of seats you serve in and give leadership where needed. Think of your area like you are responsible to do everything in your power to ensure that all those people have the best opportunity possible to connect with and hear from God. You can shepherd the people by getting to know them, praying for them, learning their names, and meeting appropriate needs.

• Follow the direction of your head usher.

All good leaders are good followers. It is important that you follow the leadership of the person responsible to lead you. Be supportive and encouraging. Offer suggestions if you have good ideas, but don’t be overly sensitive if your ideas aren’t used. Your head usher will do his or her best to serve and lead you and the rest of their team well.

2. Core tasks

In each of these areas you will receive practical hands-on training.

• Help people find a seat.

This seems obvious, but there is an art to it. The art is all about making people, especially new people and people far from God, feel comfortable. Their insecurities can rise and their feelings of self-consciousness prevent them from connecting with God.

Imagine what it feels like to walk into an unfamiliar restaurant or other environment and not know what to do. Do I seat myself or do I wait to be seated? Who do I talk to if I have a question? Who do I tell if I have special circumstances? (e.g. potential medical condition)

Your job is to move toward and engage people quickly and with confidence to help them know what to do. Don’t leave people hanging. Let them know that you can handle anything they need, and that you are the one that can make this a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Don’t make them come to you and ask. You approach them with confidence and a smile. Take charge with grace and poise.

• Collect the offering.

On a divine level, the offering is part of worship. It is the opportunity for worshippers to express their love, trust and obedience toward God. On a practical level, the financial needs of a large church are significant. Your smooth and coordinated execution of an offering can and does impact the resources that fund the Kingdom. On a security level, this is one of the most detailed functions of an usher.

You will be trained in the actual physical process for receiving an offering in a live session.

You will receive detailed training that will help us ensure compliance with legal guidelines and practical security issues.

• Assist in the execution of special moments.

Many churches are known for creativity in their worship services. From motorcycles to doughnuts, to tractors and bottles of coke, you just never know what may be coming down the aisles! Some of the special moments are fun, some are crazy, and some are deeply spiritual. Things like crossing a bridge, writing in journals, or taking communion. The service of an usher is crucial to these moments being leveraged toward life-change.

We are depending on your flexibility. Don’t get flustered when last minute changes are made. That will happen. Just keep positive, stay flexible and know that creativity is at work “making the magic” that makes all the difference.

• Get an accurate people count.

Why does this matter so much? Why must these numbers be so accurate? Why can’t we just make a good estimate? The answer is that every number represents a person. We want to be good stewards of all that God has entrusted to us and therefore it matters that we know how well we are reaching people. Just like in the book of Acts, they counted, recorded, and celebrated how many people were saved . . . we count too!

• Re-set and clean up the auditorium.

People will leave papers, cups and “stuff”. The glamorous part of an usher’s ministry is cleaning up after each service. In addition, supplies such as Bibles and pens are replenished.

Remember, many hands make light work. If all ushers jump in and help, it takes about 10 minutes.

3. Common sense

• Maintain proper appearance and personal hygiene.

• Show up on time.

o Section leaders 40 minutes before the service. o Ushers 30 minutes before the service.

• Read the bulletin – get informed, stay informed.

• Wear your name tag.

• You are not required to usher every Sunday, but when you are on the schedule, give it 100%.

• If you are on the schedule and can’t make it, it is imperative that you call your section leader.

• Smile, talk to people, and learn their names!!

Yes, there’s more, and as mentioned, you can have the complete training booklet – CLICK HERE!

Happy Ushering!!

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  – 1 Corinthians 12:20-25


Handshake – Howard Schultz and the Choice of Adding Value to Others

Howard Schultz employee

Howard Schultz makes adding value a priority

Adding Value to others is crucial in every area of your life, business, family, friends and even the stranger you meet today. Adding value to others is always reflected back to you.  This next excerpt from my new book Handshake is on Howard Schultz and the priority he gave to valuing everyone in the Starbucks organization.

Between 1987 and 1992, Starbucks, under Schultz, opened 150 new stores.  By September of 2009 Schultz was operating stores in more than 50 countries, through more than 16,000 stores around the world.

Schultz always said that the main goal was, “to serve a great cup of coffee.”  But attached to this goal was a principle:  Schultz said he wanted “to build a company with soul.”  This led to a series of practices that were unprecedented in retail.  Schultz insisted that all employees working at least 20 hours a week get comprehensive health coverage.  Then he introduced an employee stock-option plan.  These moves boosted loyalty and led to extremely low worker turnover.

… Starbucks has achieved what many thought impossible under the umbrella that if you add value to people, value will be added to you.  In a society that is self-driven, adding value to people may seem like a waste of time. Those who think that way have no clue to the power that comes from this practice.  When you determine to be “others” minded, you have made a decision that will alter your life.

Listed are some of the benefits you will learn in this chapter regarding adding value to those around you:

a)    You deposit success into others

b)    You build your network

c)    You build loyalty

d)    You build longevity

e)    You create a winning atmosphere

f)    You increase your level of influence

g)    You will receive a great return on your investment

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.
— Flora Edwards

An Example of Encouragement

Tony Curtis encouragment

Tony Curtis was a great encourager

As leaders and as human beings I cannot stress enough the importance of encouraging the people in your life. Your words have the power to lift people up in a far greater capacity than you may may have ever imagined. They literally can breathe life. I encourage you to actively seek ways to encourage each person in your life. Your spouse, your kids, parents, friends, business partners,staff, the grocery clerk, the waiter, the guy who changes your tires, the flight attendant, they all crave encouragement. I am not talking about empty flattery, I am talking about true compliments and encouragement. What are you grateful for in that person? What do they do well? What do they do that makes your life better?  It may not always be easy to do with every person, but if you look deep enough you will always find something good to say.  Below is article by Jud Wilhite regarding the amazing lesson of encouragement he relieved from the late Tony Curtis. encourager


Tony Curtis, the legendary actor, passed away in the Las Vegas area this week at 85. I only had a 15 minute snapshot of him, but it still inspires me to this day.

Two Christmases ago after a service, he came backstage to our green room at Central in Vegas. He wanted to see me. I came around the corner, and he grabbed my arm and pulled me down to him in is wheelchair. He told me two or three positive things that he loved about the message. He told me I had a great smile on the platform that put people at ease and helped them open their hearts. He told me I touched him, and he thanked me.

Then the host/MC walked through for that weekend. He grabbed him and told him a couple very specific things that he liked. Then he turned to some volunteer band members and remembered specific things they had done during the service and praised them personally, legitimately, uniquely. THIS IS TONY FREAKING CURTIS. He’s made about a zillion movies like Some Like It Hot and Spartacus.

We only saw him for 15 minutes, and he had poured so much courage into each of us. He gave us life by his words. He never made it about him for one moment. It was all about loving and encouraging others. When he left, I prayed that God would make me more like that.

It is amazing the kind of impact you can have in 15 minutes when you make it about others and pouring into them. Find somebody to encourage today!

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”  -Proverbs 16:24
“You need to be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes, and encourage them in their pursuits. When we all help one another, everybody wins.”
-Jim Stovall

What Great Leaders Do

Scuba instructors teach each student the same basic lessons.

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to scuba dive for the first time.  I must say that it was quit an adventure.  Something I will never forget.  I attended a 90 minute orientation in which they taught us to breathing techniques and other safety precautions to help us during our diving experience.  After our orientation we headed into the ocean and it was incredible.  After our experience was over I walked by another small group of people who were receiving their orientation for the first time and listened for a moment as they listened intently to their guide.

I noticed that the techniques that they were being taught were exactly the same as what I had received.  What was successful for one group was obviously successful for the next.  I thought to myself, “that is the way it is with leadership.”  The techniques for great leaders are often the same. What great leaders do at one location will be often the same at another.  Success techniques simply don’t change too much for different leaders.

I have listed below some of the techniques that I have seen leaders use.  These techniques will work if you give them a chance.  Here are a few that will help you:

Make others feel important
If your goals and decisions are self-centered, followers will lose their enthusiasm quickly.  Emphasize their strengths and contributions not your own.

Promote vision
Followers need a clear idea of where you’re leading them and they need to understand why that goal is valuable to them.  Your job as a leader is to provide that vision.

Follow the Golden Rule
Treat your followers the way you enjoy being treated.  An abusive leader attracts few loyal followers.

Admit your mistakes
If people suspect that you’re covering up your own errors, they’ll hide their mistakes too and you’ll lack valuable information for making decisions.

Stay close to the action
You need to be visible to the members of your organization.  Talk to people, visit other offices and work sites, ask questions and observe how business is being handled.  Often you will gain new insights into your work and find new opportunities for motivating your followers.

Practice these techniques in your work environment and like the instructions I received for my scuba diving experience…they will lead you to success!

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


The men who succeed are the efficient few.  They are the
few who have the ambition and willpower to develop themselves.
– Herbert N.  Casson

Creating a Pleasant Work Environment

happy team

Happy People are Productive People

Disneyland has a slogan “The happiest place on earth.”  Wouldn’t that be a great slogan for your team or company – that your place of work is the “happiest place on earth?”  What do you think your fellow team members or staff feels about the work environment that has been created?  Would they describe the climate of your company as the “happiest place on earth?”

Happy people are productive people.  If you want to your people to be productive, creative, loyal, hard working and full of life and energy, then it is essential to create the healthiest, happiest environment possible.  People work better under the right conditions.  You win, your staff wins, and your customers win…everyone wins!

Here are a few tips to help you create “The happiest place on earth:”

• Be less inclined to give advice and more inclined to take it.
Create an environment that is receptive to advise from others, rather then so quick to give it out.  By doing this you will develop individuals who desire to grow and value the voice of others.

• Identify great qualities in others.
This can be difficult especially with those who are difficult to get along with, but you can do it.  Find the unique qualities with those in your circle.  Applaud those qualities privately and publicly.  Create an environment where people seek the best not the worst.

• Go out of your way to show appreciation.
Be gracious with your words.  Say things like:  “thank you,” “good job,” “I appreciate all you do,” “you make this a great place to work,” and “we couldn’t do it without you.”  Think about it for a moment – words shape lives, add value to people, set the tone and, the greatest thing of all, words are free!

• Promise only what you can deliver
The environment must be one of trust and mutual respect.  This kind of environment is difficult to create if you have people that don’t deliver on their promises.  Be a person of your word… someone that others can count on.

• Have fun
Do something out of the ordinary and have fun.  Shut down the office and take everyone bowling or miniature golfing.  Take everyone out for an afternoon ice cream or to a movie.  Do something fun and out of the ordinary 2-3 times a year and your people will begin to notice the difference.

If you want to create an environment of productivity and creativity, then you will need to make your place of work “the happiest place on earth.”  Enjoy, get creative and think outside of the box.  I promise that if you work hard at making a happy place, your staff will work even harder for you.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
– George Bernard Shaw

How well am I leading the church? – Part 2

Have a commitment to Personal Growth and Adding Value to Your Team

Have a commitment to Personal Growth and Adding Value to Your Team

Last time, I pointed out that the first step to being an effective leader in your church is having a consuming passion to build a thriving church. If a passion to have a thriving, growing church is your motivation, then a dedication to learning and to growing the various qualities of a good leader is a must. John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”Let’s take a closer look at two of these areas of leadership.

 I have observed that leaders are usually in one of the two places…A place of continual challenge or a place of continual comfort. You, and therefore your church, cannot move forward if you are continually comfortable.  In order to grow as a leader, you must challenge yourself; you must have a commitment to personal growth. Here are some basic steps…
 1.  To challenge yourself you have to invest in yourself.
   How to invest:
a)  Read great books, blogs, newsletters, daily
b)  Listen to motivational and/or teaching cd’s, or other audio sources daily
c) Take thinking moments -Set aside time each week where you step away and think about leadership and your personal growth.  This is where you learn to journal.
d)  Visit great places
e)  Talk to great leaders
f)   Be committed to life long coaching/mentoring
2. Create a plan and stick with it. I have heard it said, “The greatest obstacle to personal growth isn’t ignorance or lack of intelligence.  It is a lack of a plan to get you there.”
               Two main keys to creating a personal growth plan are:
                                • Identify what you need to do
                                • Place it in your calendar and live by it
Another area we need to focus on as leaders is  having a Commitment to add value to others. In the setting of your church team, this includes church staff and volunteer leaders. Bob Nelson, author of 1001 Ways To Reward Employees did a survey on managers and employees.  He had each group list on a scale from 1-10 what is most important to them.

The Managers Top 3 were…
1. Good wages
2. Job Security
3. Promotion/Growth opportunities
The Employees Top 3 were…
1. Appreciation
2. Sympathetic to personal problems
3. Feeling “IN” on things
NOTE:  Managers only ranked Appreciation as #8

“How can you add value to those around you,
if you don’t know what they value?”

Here are some tips to help you better value your team.
 1. Know their love language.
 – What makes each team member feel valuable?  (Gifts, Words, Notes, Public Affirmation, see The Five Love Languages, by Dr. Gary Chapman)
 2. Put a “10” on each team members head and treat them that way.
3. Be genuinely interested in their lives.
4. Regularly invest in them as a leader.
a)  Go through monthly leadership books with them.
b)  Create leadership growth groups.
c)  Send them to conferences.
d)  Get them in front of great leaders.
e) When you have a great speaker in, have them spend time with the leaders before or after the services.

I will address the last two areas of effective church leadership (Character that builds influence and Clarity of heart and mission) in part 3 of “How well am I leading the church?

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“Every great man is always being helped by everybody; for his gift is to get good out of all things and all persons.”

— John Ruskin

What every staff member wants from their leader – Part 1

If there is high morale among staff then high productivity is more likely.

If there is high morale among staff, then high productivity is more likely.

If you want to know the temperature of your organization you need not look any farther then your staff.  They set the climate for all those involved.  They are the pacesetters, the producers and the directors of your organization.  Success or failure rests on their shoulders.

If there is a spirit of harmony and high morale among the staff then there is likely to be a high volume of productivity.  If there is tension among the staff, division in the ranks or a lack of trust from staff member to leader then productivity and morale will inevitably be low.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. once said “I have long been profoundly convinced that in the very nature of things, employers and employees are partners, not enemies; that in the long run the success of each is dependent upon the success of the other.”  Knowing that your success as a leader is dependent on the success of your staff, here are some thoughts to help you understand what your staff wants from you.

1)  Your staff wants to be treated as leaders with high value and potential, not as “hired hands.”
The hired hand mentality is based on the premise of exchanging time for a paycheck, but if that is your mentality that is all you will get.  If you want a staff member who is loyal, committed and ready to win, you will need to treat them with value and respect.

2)  Your staff wants a commitment to “adult-adult”, open and mature communication.
Good communication is done with the heart as much as with the ears and mouth.  Communicate in such a way that expresses compassion and concern.  Refuse to be a dictator, who barks out commands expecting people to jump.  This intimidation produces shallow faithfulness to the leader and the organization.

3)  Your staff wants clear expectations.
Nothing is more frustrating for a staff member then unclear expectations.  They need to know what you expect from them or they will never know if they are hitting the mark.  Write out clear expectations and go over them together.  Review these expectations frequently, evaluating their progress along the way.

4)  Your staff wants to be rewarded for their work.
What gets rewarded – gets done.  It doesn’t always have to be money (though most of your staff wouldn’t complain) it might be something else.  It could be recognition publicly, affirmation privately or a few days off with pay.  Don’t be so “in the box” get creative and find out ways to reward your staff for any size job well done.

5)  Your staff wants training for personal and professional growth.
Whenever you make deposits into your staff members lives you will always reap a great reward.  It may cost time and money but it will be worth it.  Your staff will be better equipped to serve by your side and you will have displayed to them their value.  Invest in your staff, send them to seminars, buy them books, copy articles, do anything you can to resource the people of your staff.

Until Next Time,

Chris Sonksen


“People don’t want to be managed.  They want to be led.
Whoever heard of a world manager?”
– From an article published by : United Technologies Corporation

Closing the gap on recognition

Find creative ways to value them in a sincere manner

Find creative ways to value your team in a sincere manner

Last week I shared with you the importance of effective recognition among your team and organization.  We looked at how recognition ultimately brings out motivation.  If you want to improve performance then the leader must improve their forms of inspiration.

This week we continue on the theme of recognition.  I am learning more as a leader that the gap of perception between leaders and team members is astounding when it comes to the importance of recognition in the work place.  While most leaders agree that recognition is important, few realize how passionately the team members feel about the subject.

Bob Nelson, author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, discovered that what managers perceived as most important to employees was sharply different from what the employees actually reported as being important. Management and employees were asked to rank 10 items from 1-10  (1 being “most” important and 10 being “least” important).  The results below clearly show that to help employees or team members reach their full potential, managers need to increase their awareness of what motivates employees.

Managers Employees
Good Wages 1 5
Job Security 2 4
Promotion/Growth opportunities 3 7
Good working conditions 4 9
Interesting work 5 6
Personal loyalty to workers 6 8
Tactful disciplining 7 10
Full appreciation for work done 8 1
Sympathetic to personal problems 9 2
Feeling “In” on things 10 3

Note the numbers 1,2,3, in red.  What the managers and employees considered important are completely opposite.  The result is simple the managers do not really understand the needs of the people they lead.

Here’s my challenge to you…

a)Know what makes your people feel valued
b)Find creative ways to value them in a sincere manner
c)Let your forms of recognition include: informal, formal & personal
d)Be consistent

I am confident that if you will begin the exercise of recognition you will be on the path to higher performance and productivity.  START TODAY!  Decide right now what you can do and watch the difference it will make!

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“We wildly underestimate the POWER of the tiniest personal touch.”
Tom Peters

Steps to effective recognition

Recognition creates a positive emotional response and increases self-esteem

Recognition creates a positive emotional response and increases self-esteem

Think about the last time you received recognition from someone:
How were you recognized?
Was it timely?
Did the person tell you specifically what you did right?
Was he or she sincere?
Could the person giving the recognition have done anything to make the experience better?

Now think about the last time you gave someone recognition and pretend that the person you recognized asked themselves the same questions.  How do you think they felt?  What was their experience?  Do they feel you were sincere?  Do they think you could have done a better job?

Author and speaker Michelle Nold describes recognition as “Motivation that creates a positive emotional response and increases self-esteem, inspiring the recipient to repeat the ideal behaviors and actions, resulting in a lasting improvement in performance.”

The first step to effective recognition is: KNOWLEDGE.  You need to understand the enormous benefits of proper recognition, the most effective way to make it happen and the knowledge and honesty to know if you need to improve in this crucial area.

Below are the result to an annul survey given to employees across the United States.

It is important to receive recognition.
97% Agree    3% Disagree

Receiving recognition motivates me to improve my job performance.
90% Agree    10% Disagree

My manager provides ample and effective recognition.
46% Agree    54% Disagree

What type of recognition motivates you the most?
15%  Formal ceremony with upper management
17%  Timely peer recognition
65%  Sincere appreciation from my manager
3%  Other

Managers should participate in recognition training.
85%  Agree    15%  Disagree
These stats should serve as an awakening to the power and need of effective recognition.  Begin to evaluate your organization and your personal leadership.  Are you effective when it comes to recognition?  Could you use a little training in this much needed area?  Do you give recognition the proper time and effort it needs?

If you are willing to admit you could do a better job in this area, you are well on your way to improvement.  Sit down with a pad of paper, discuss it in your next leadership meeting and figure out a way to bring effective recognition to the people of your organization.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

Quote for the day:

“You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within them.”
Bob Nelson