Uncategorized

The Front Door isn’t the Front Door Anymore
The Front Door isn’t the Front Door Anymore 960 640 The Provisum Group

It is no secret that churches in America are struggling with church growth. Fewer people attending fewer services, fewer times is the norm in most churches in the United States. Experts galore are ready to offer a universe of reasons about what is the cause of the decline of church attendance in a post-Christian era. What I know is that Jesus is still Lord, God is still on His Throne, and the Bible is no less true today than it was when it was written. Even so, here are two things that have universally changed that significantly impact church growth and how the church connects with people in the neighborhood around it.

First, people’s attention spans are shorter than ever. In 2015, Microsoft published research that showed the human attention span has dwindled to eight seconds. That is shorter than a goldfish’s nine-second span. That’s right, a goldfish can focus its attention longer than most people on social and digital media. Though I wonder how anyone could know what the goldfish is actually thinking. Oh well, it must be true. I read it on the Internet.

Second, the way people search for churches has changed drastically. In fact, 70% of church searches start on the Internet. With the advent of the Internet and the development of smartphones, the entire world of information is available at your fingertips instantly. Predictive analytics, search engines, and social media have forced all content creators to compete for our attention.  People’s attention spans are also getting shorter.

The New Front Door

How does that impact the church and our ability to reach the neighborhood and community around us? It forces us to look at our digital front door: our websites. Your website is your church’s new front door in the 21st century. Don’t think so? Read on.

Recently, one of my sons relocated to a new city and began looking for a church for his family to attend.  Like 70% of all people searching for a new church home, the first thing that he did was pull out his smartphone and search “churches my town” (try it with your town). He looked through a few websites and finally settled on a church that was about ten minutes from where he lived. He did all this without even visiting a church or driving around to see what was nearby.

He was telling me about his search, and I asked him what made him choose the church that he did. I asked because I knew there was a well-established church closer to where he was living that had amazing worship, a world class children’s ministry, and a legacy of excellence over 100 years old. He told me that he just looked at the first few sites that came up in his search. He looked at when and where services were, what worship and the community looked like, what was going to happen with his son (who if you follow me on social media will know to be the most adorable toddler on the planet), and finally the church’s theology. If a website couldn’t answer all of those questions or it didn’t seem like a fit, he would move to the next one. The entire search for him took about 15 minutes before he decided to visit one.

When I asked him about the church that was closer to him, he said if it had shown up in his Google search, he would have considered it. Knowing my son and this particular church, it would have far exceeded his expectations and met his need, but because someone at the church didn’t SEO the website, he never knew it existed. Failing to do something as simple as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the critical ways that the church is failing to “go” in the 21st century.  Amazing worship, a world class children’s ministry, and a legacy of excellence over 100 years old is useless if people don’t even know your church exists. Some basic changes to that website would have gotten them in to my son’s search results.

Do This Now

Open up your search engine right now and search “churches in <insert your town>.” Did you show up on the first page? Are you in the first five results? If you aren’t on the first page of search results, less people will find you. Go and talk to the person who is in charge of your website. Ask them if they have SEO’d your website. If they haven’t, ask them to research SEO and come back to you with suggestions and a plan. Or call us at The Provisum Group and we will point you in the right direction.

While Search Engine Optimization and web design are not the be-all-end-all for church growth in the 21st century, there is some pretty low-hanging fruit when it comes to growing your church. I outline a number of these basic opportunities and give you a step-by-step guide in my book, Connect. If you need help with your website or other communication services, The Provisum Group builds and administrates websites for ministries all over the country. Check out some of our work here.

Growing a church in the twenty-first century
Ignore this Person and Your Church Won’t Grow
Ignore this Person and Your Church Won’t Grow 800 528 The Provisum Group

I was ordained in a faith tradition of spiritual fathers and sons. As I was going through my ordination process, my elders would frequently use terminology like reaching the “lost” or “fallen.” Over time that changed to reaching the “unchurched”, “de-churched”, “re-churched” or “under-churched.” The former felt hyperbolic to me and the latter felt too businesslike.

In the United States, who hasn’t heard the name of Jesus? Even evil spirits know who Jesus is and call him the Son of God (Mark 3:11). I have colleagues who have not been to church in 20 years but still call themselves Christians. In fact, the Pew Research Center estimates that 70.6% of Americans if asked, would call themselves “Christian”. Then why do so many churches struggle to keep their doors open?

If you want to grow your church, you have to introduce people who live far from Jesus to people who live for Jesus. You have to connect with people. This is not a secret. This is not new. But how we connect the Church with the neighborhood and community around us has changed dramatically over the last forty years.

In my new book Connect, I talk about the groups of people in and around the Church a little differently. I break them down into five groups throughout the book: the saints, the disciples, the undiscipled, the community, and the neighborhood.

Growing a church in the twenty-first century

  • The “saints” are the people who have accepted for themselves the responsibility of making people into disciples. The saints are the children’s leaders, pastors, elders, deacons, and Bible study leaders, the ones who understand the Bible and do most of the disciple-making in your ministry.
  • The “disciples” are the people who joined your community of faith, made a decision for Christ, and proactively seek to grow in their faith. They have accepted the responsibility of their own discipleship. They bring their children to Sunday school, live generously, attend the studies of Scripture, do the work of the Church, and serve others in mission.
  • The “community” is anyone whose contact information you possess. You might not know their names, but you have at least their e-mail addresses or cell phone numbers on record.
  • The “neighborhood” are those people who live around your church, but for whom you have no connection whatsoever and possess no contact information.
  • The “undiscipled” are people who may or may not identify as a Christian, but did not grow up in a church. Undiscipled people do not have an experiential context or learned precept for Christian living. They have yet to accept the personal responsibility of their own discipleship. Undiscipled people are the raw material of disciple making.

The mission of going and making disciples has not changed in 2,000 years. How the church makes a disciple has not changed much either. But how we “go” and how we “connect” with undiscipled people in the 21st century has changed dramatically. Churches who do not embrace this truth and change the way they connect with undiscipled people do so at their peril. Unfortunately, most churches have not embraced this truth.

In Connect you will walk through a process of connecting with the neighborhood and community around your church and then integrating them into the disciple-making process of your ministry. Understanding how these different groups make connection decisions and connect with people and institutions is an important and often neglected component of growing a church in the twenty-first century. If you are interested in learning more.

Order a copy and see how it will bless you and your ministry.

Congregation in a large church
Do this one thing this Easter and more visitors will come back.
Do this one thing this Easter and more visitors will come back. 650 430 The Provisum Group

Easter is this weekend, but I don’t need to tell you that. You and every other pastor in the country have been preparing for one of their largest services of the year. Some may be finalizing their sermon while others may be making sure that their worship leader or chancel choir are ready to wow the new visitors. Every church and denomination is different but there is one thing that every pastor needs to be ready to do this Sunday to ensure more visitors will come back.

Ask for visitors’ contact information.

In order for the Church as the body of Christ to grow, the church needs to connect with more people; to form community; to create fellowship. Without a way to contact someone, we can only hope and pray that they saw something they liked and will come back. With a person’s contact information, you can connect with every visitor and personally extend an invitation to them to become a part of your community. Let me give you an example of how I do that for my church partners.

At The Provisum Group, our partners have congregations spanning almost every geographic, ethnic, and socio-economic demographic there is. We have tailored texting solutions, video emails, web landing pages, check in kiosks and even something as simple as hand out cards to prepare for this Sunday. All of this effort’s singular purpose is to make sure that all of the new visitors will get an email on Monday morning thanking them for visiting and inviting them back to the youth lock-in or the BBQ contest or the picnic that the church is hosting later that month. These events are where people from your church can connect with people from the neighborhood and create community and fellowship that lead to church growth. (You can read more about that in my book, Connect)

Here is a free tip that I typically charge my church partners for.

If you haven’t planned to collect contact information this Sunday or send a follow up email, here’s what you can do. Print out a small form or even get some index cards and leave them in every pew. During service, before the offering, thank the visitors for attending and tell them that you’re about to take the offering and that the only thing that you want from them as your guests is an opportunity to invite them back. Ask them to fill out that index card with their name and email address and put it in the offering plate. If you really want to impress your visitors and increase the number of cards collected, announce at each Easter service that your church will donate $XXX to XXXXX charity for every card collected on Easter morning. (I would suggest you pick a ministry you already support)

On Monday, send each and every person an email thanking them for attending on Easter and ask them to come to your next event. If you do this consistently, people will connect, friendships will be made, a community will form, and your church will grow.

If you want to learn more about how to use techniques like this to grow your church, I want to tell you about my new book Connect. In this book I share with you lessons like this one that I have learned from years of managing and growing churches all across the country. You will learn turn-key, proven steps that you can take to connect with the neighborhood around you and grow your church. Click the link below and learn more.

The Provisum Group CPAs can help with tax advice
Clergy Compensation Comes Under US Tax Court Scrutiny
Clergy Compensation Comes Under US Tax Court Scrutiny 1024 682 The Provisum Group

I recently learned of another court ruling that further clarifies how clergy are compensated.  Now I am no accountant and I encourage you to always consult a licensed CPA, like those at The Provisum Group, for tax advice.

The US Tax Court & Board of Tax Appeals recently released a decision against two Minnesota husband-wife pastors, who claimed that they did not receive any income from their church but rather gifts directly from their congregation.

As a charismatic congregation with a tradition of giving gifts directly to clergy, Reverend and Mrs. Felton, the clergy at issue in the case, were uncomfortable with the practice called “shake-hand money” but wanted to respect their congregation’s spirit of generosity. They developed a system that relied on different colored envelopes where white envelopes went towards traditional tithes and offerings and blue envelopes replaced the practice of “shake-hand money.” The Felton’s earnestly believed that these blue envelope gifts were simply gifts and not considered taxable income. The Internal Revenue Service thought otherwise.

In 2008 and 2009, the Felton’s were comfortably living on income from a business, also owned by the Pastors, and only asked the church to provide them a housing allowance. This threw up a red flag to the IRS.

While there is no written rule about how much of your salary can be drawn in a housing stipend, my accounting team advises all of my clients that it be no more than 50% of your clergy compensation. If audited by the IRS, clergy are required receipts for every penny spent of the housing allowance received from their church or ministry.

As the IRS began digging into the Feltons’ finances, they learned about the colored envelope system and slapped them with a tax bill and penalties for the “substantial understatement” of their income. In early October of 2018, Judge Mark Holmes of the US Tax Court & Board of Tax Appeals ruled that the IRS was correct in their assessment of the Feltons’ taxes and in doing so provided more guidance in what is considered a “love gift” and what is to be counted as clergy income.

As ministry leaders, we are called to be blameless and above reproach in all things. If you are unsure if your housing allowance or love gift practices are in compliance with IRS guidelines, give my team a call at The Provisum Group. Our team of accounting professionals can help get your books in order and keep you in compliance with government regulations. Feel free to contact us HERE.

You can read the Felton v. Commissioner decision HERE.

ministerial-housing-allowance-goes-back-to-court
Ministerial Housing Allowance Goes Back To Court
Ministerial Housing Allowance Goes Back To Court 1024 682 The Provisum Group

As President of The Provisum Group, I lead a group of talented professionals who manage the finances of churches and faith-based charities across the country.  Every day, we have to ensure compliance for our clients with laws, regulations and judicial precedents of a multitude of different federal, state, and local regulatory agencies. There is one situation, however, that has the potential to affect every ministry across the country.

Last year a federal court in Wisconsin ruled that the ministerial housing allowance was unconstitutional. Since then, the case has been appealed. You may be wondering what does this mean for your ministry.

The Provisum Group is accredited by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.  The ECFA is one of the largest and most respected financial accrediting agencies for churches and faith based charities in the country.  Below is an article from the ECFA that explains where the court battle currently stands:

The minister’s housing exclusion faces its next battle in a 7-years-and-counting war with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. A Wisconsin federal district court ruled in October 2017 that the housing exclusion for minister-provided housing is unconstitutional, a ruling that could ultimately strike down the allowance nationwide, resulting in nearly $1 billion in new taxes for ministers across the country. An appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals was filed by Chicago-area pastors in early February 2018.

While the appeal will not reach the courtroom until later this year, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, representing pastors on the South Side of Chicago and other religious leaders, filed its opening brief on April 19. Further, several organizations, including ECFA, The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Council of Churches of City of New York, Queens Federation of Churches, and the Christian Legal Society, filed an Amicus Brief to the court detailing the longstanding history of the housing allowance and the devastating financial consequences that would be felt by ministers and churches if this provision is found unconstitutional.

“The housing-allowance exemption has roots going back to the inception of the modern federal income tax. Predating the Tax Code, the practice of providing housing for a minister…crossed the Atlantic with the colonists,” states the Amicus Brief. The document goes on to offer illustrative figures that demonstrate that if the housing allowance were invalidated, “ministers and congregations that have relied on it in good faith would suffer substantial ‘disruptive effects’ – especially small congregations and retired ministers, who have ‘the least ability’ to absorb the resulting costs.”

The housing exclusion was established by Congress in 1954 to protect ministers, as well as business leaders, teachers, military personnel, and other workers who need to live in a certain community to perform their jobs, from tax treatment that would put them at a disadvantage and make it difficult if not impossible for them to serve their community.

Becket stated in the opening brief, “Home is where the heart is. But home can also be an essential part of a job. That is why, for over 100 years, the IRS and Congress have recognized…that if an employer provides an employee with housing for the ‘convenience of the employer’ – that is, as ‘part of the maintenance of the [employer’s] general enterprise’ – it is not income.”

Over the last 60 years, the convenience-of-the-employer doctrine has been applied to hundreds of thousands of nonreligious employees, not just ministers. Further, the spirit of the doctrine is particularly germane to the work of clergy because often their home is where they provide counsel, prepare congregational messages, host missionaries, welcome new members, and in many cases, hold services because the church lacks its own facility.

As the appeals process continues, the fate of many pastors and churches hangs in the balance. If the lower court’s decision is not overturned, churches in the Seventh District (Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin) would be immediately affected, and since the IRS federal tax code applies to all states, the decision could prompt a review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

If you feel like you need assistance keeping up to date on the various laws that affect you and your ministry, please get in contact with me using the button to the right or contact my business, The Provisum Group, for more information.

Update on Constitutionality of Housing Allowances
Update on Constitutionality of Housing Allowances 570 379 The Provisum Group

Late last year a federal judge ruled that the housing allowance received by clergy was unconstitutional. With the passage of new tax laws at the federal level and in light of this ruling many pastors are asking themselves, “what happens now?” I wanted to share with you some information put together by the ECFA that brings a little clarity to these questions.

A ruling was issued in October 2017 by a Wisconsin federal district court calling the minister’s housing allowance unconstitutional.

What is the immediate impact for ministers and churches?

As of this publication, there is no immediate impact on ministers receiving a housing allowance from their church or other employer. The longer-term impact hinges on whether appeals are filed in the case.

If No Appeals Filed

It’s possible there will be no appeals filed in the case by the government or other parties impacted (“intervenor defendants”), meaning the district court’s decision will begin to apply immediately after the deadline expires for them to file an appeal.

If Appeals Filed

However, there is a good chance the government or other parties impacted will appeal the decision at least to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and possibly even to the U.S. Supreme Court.

An appeals court could disagree with the lower court and find the housing allowance constitutional. In the alternative, if the lower court ruling is upheld on appeal, the district court’s ruling states it will not go into effect until 180 days after the appeals process concludes.

What about ministers living in parsonages?

The district court further clarified in its follow-up ruling that this decision does not apply to Section 107(1) of the tax code. In other words, the ruling has no impact whatsoever on ministers living in church-provided housing (“parsonages”).

Winners Want To Keep Score
Winners Want To Keep Score 792 600 The Provisum Group

My three adult sons were all year-round athletes in high school. My wife and I were endlessly sitting in hot, smelly gyms or on cold rainy sidelines for almost twenty years. My kids grew up in a generation where everyone got a trophy. My generation taught the next generation that winning is just showing up. We taught them that results (score) don’t matter…criticism is mean…expectations are insensitive. We robbed an entire generation of the lessons to be learned from failing and the strength of character that is born in the struggle.

The school district where my sons competed did a really good job of having robust junior-varsity teams where everybody got to play. However, on the varsity, only the best players played and sometimes played both ways. If you were on the varsity, you knew you might not get in the game. Eventually, some parents started showing up at school board meetings, complaining that they pay athletic fees but their children (on the varsity) might not get into a game. These parents argued that if they pay, their kids should play and after all, “winning did not matter.” At one school board meeting, a mother was arguing this very point with great intensity. She concluded with, “After all, winning doesn’t matter. It’s how you play the game.”

Then, the star of the football team stood up and asked a question.
“If winning does not matter, then why do we have a score board?” he asked.
The purpose of score (measurement) is to recognize desired behavior (or lack thereof) and determine a winner (declare success). By declaring a winner, the score also identifies the team that lost. It is unavoidable. Most elite athletes want to live in a world with competition and score. Most top performers want to work in an environment where results are measured and people are expected to do what they say they are going to do (perform).

Quotefancy-8552-3840x2160-1024x576

As a seasoned leader of more than thirty years, I am always suspect of someone who equates accountability (measurement) with a lack of trust or who wants to lower the standard they do not meet because the standard is in some way “not fair.” I have learned that if you question the integrity of honest people, they will in some way demand an audit. Conversely, if you audit dishonest people, they will usually try and turn the audit into a question of character. Top performers aren’t afraid of audits (accountability).

Top performers like a scoreboard. They don’t like working in organizations with no accountability or follow-through. If top performers have to constantly deal with late meetings, unmet goals, poor performance, unreturned emails, and endless debates over desired outcomes, they will grow frustrated and many will move on. They won’t put up with the chaos forever and the truth is they don’t have to. The truth is top performers have options. Every team has and needs top performers. Ask the Miami Heat if they would rather play with Lebron James or against him and are they a better team without him.

What do you spend most of your time doing? Discussing anecdotal opinions, debating the validity of reports, questioning the performance of others, or arguing over what is “fair”? Or do you spend your time getting things done, exploring how things can be done better next time, and who produced the desired outcome (and who did not)? If you have not been achieving the goals you have set for yourself, if you want to win, maybe you should ask a top performer how they do it. Be prepared to hear words like “accountability,” “consequences,” “results,” and “risk.”

Top performers want the score kept. Poor performers don’t.

Do Hard Conversations Promote Growth?
Do Hard Conversations Promote Growth? 792 600 The Provisum Group

Do Hard Conversations Promote Growth?

Not always.  But avoiding them usually hinders growth.

In church business, we are called to steward and to lead.   The stewardship side of our role is to manage the church’s assets like our own.  Stewardship requires that we do what is right regardless of the resistance to a decision.  The leadership side of our role means we advocate for doing what is sound and wise regardless of the popularity.   Anytime you’re in a leadership role, you’ll be faced with having hard conversations. As many of us know, there might be friction. It may be something we don’t want to do, but we are called to make the tough decisions and have these discussions.

Here’s a key principle to always remember: Friction is a by-product of movement. Without friction, there is no movement.

As the church begins making strides towards growth and change, you may be met with friction. Friction can be disguised as many names but more often than not, it’s labeled as conflict. Conflict isn’t something to be avoided, but should be dealt with quickly and directly.   Avoiding conflict can be a luxury we award ourselves at the cost of progress and stewardship.  Conflict is an opportunity to grow and learn, not something to shy away from.

I’m reminded of a time when I was working with a fellow pastor, helping him through a series of changes within his church. One day, after the Sunday service, we stood talking and I noticed a dilapidated building that needed to be torn down. The pastor decided to get a quote from a contractor in the congregation to destroy the old building. The amount was five digits long and much too expensive for what needed to be done. Ultimately, we went with another company but not before the pastor had to have a hard conversation with the member of his congregation.

The pastor dreaded the potential conflict, but the contractor ended up being very understanding and helped the church choose the right company for the job. In the end, the best possible conclusion was achieved and the church was able to continue forward.

The question most of us face is: How do you go about having these conversations without feeling awkward and tense?

Here are 3 tips to remember when it’s time to broach a tough subject:

  • You’re on the same side— allow the person space to process and ask questions. Approaching the situation as two people on the same side rather than on opposing sides will help you both talk through the issue and grow from it.
  • Be Assertive—it won’t help either of you if you’re not willing to be straightforward. There’s a difference between being forthcoming and honest and just being blunt or rude. But someone has to be the first to acknowledge the 800 pound gorilla in the room.
  • Seek a Solution–No matter how hard the conversation is, it’s vitally important to edify the other person as you talk about the topic at hand. Lowering walls and coming to someone in humility will help alleviate any pressure they feel. Work towards an outcome that’s honoring to both parties involved.

We often do somersaults when dealing with church business to ensure that no one is offended.  If there is no conflict in your ministry, you probably aren’t doing much. Having sound business people around you to help you have these conversations is a great way to add checks and balance to your system. They can advise on best practices and can be a sounding board to bounce effective ideas off of.

As you consider the various business dealings within your church, is there a hard conversation you’ve been avoiding?

Don’t Just Work In It. Work On It.
Don’t Just Work In It. Work On It. 1024 640 The Provisum Group

In order to become a great leader you must learn to make things better in your organization. The first way to start to make things better is to ask great questions. Great questions lead to better answers and more clarity about the true and current status of your organization. Once you have true and clear picture, you will have a better chance of plotting a course of action that will improve and grow your church, non-profit, or business.

As a church consultant, I have audited many church financial balance sheets. The audit process can often feel painful to staff members, but it is necessary to insure organizational health.

In the same way, leaders must audit their ministries, systems, and models. Why? Ministry auditing makes things better.

Andy Stanley, of North Point Community Church offers six questions that every leader should ask on a regular basis. These are great questions.

  1. Do I have the right people at the table? Do I have the right people who are informed to make the right decisions?

I like this question because without the right people, you really have nothing. The wrong people in the wrong positions always lead to the wrong decisions and the wrong results. If you manage others in your organization, you must ask if you have the right people in the right positions.

  1. Where are we manufacturing energy? Where are we pretending? Where are we trying to convince people to go to that we don’t want to go to ourselves?”

There is a difference between buzz and hype. Buzz means that there is a groundswell of interest. Hype means that somebody is trying to sell others on being interested. In your organization, you want buzz. You want people to want to do the ministry activities. You must regularly guard against yourself and your other staff from trying to make things happen that just don’t have genuine interest.

  1. Where do I make the greatest contribution to the organization?”

This question leads you to self-evaluation. Let’s face it: you’re not really good at everything. Don’t believe me? Just ask your spouse. You must stay in your lane. Every good leader knows their strengths and their weaknesses. Stay in your lane and make the biggest contribution you can.

  1. “Who’s not keeping up?”

Every organization has people who are ahead and behind. Nobody likes to be behind. However, when we fail to evaluate who is not keeping up we are discrediting the work of those who do. I’m not saying you have to automatically fire people who don’t keep up with you, but you do need to be aware and take appropriate action.

  1. What have we fallen in love with that is no longer…? What have we become emotionally attached to that no longer belongs? What is our way but is no longer the best way to…?

Just because the rotary phone used to be a good idea, doesn’t mean you have to keep using it today. Every system and ministry in your church was at one time a good idea. However, your church is not a history museum or an art museum. It is a living and breathing group of people. Just because something worked in the past doesn’t mean it works for today. Organizational leaders need to be rigorous in their evaluation of their systems, ministries, and models regardless of how in love they are or used to be.

  1. “What would a great leader do?”

I like this question because it allows leaders to step outside of themselves and to imagine and dream what somebody else might do. This process often frees mental roadblocks and allows a leader to think clearly and creatively about how to move forward.

For more from Andy Stanley, check out: www.insidenorthpoint.org.

Avoiding Detours Created by Diversions
Whose Mission Is It Anyway?
Whose Mission Is It Anyway? 900 598 The Provisum Group

‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. (Haggai 2:8)

Simple right?

But over the years I have talked with so many leaders in the church and I have noticed that financial stewardship in the church is never simple. Ask church leaders to tell you the words that pop into their heads when they think of church finances and you will hear words like: stress, conflict, meetings; and one of my personal favorite reactions, “Lord take me now.”

Intellectually, they have a plan; in their hearts, they have a mission. The friction usually resides in trying to do the right thing (the God-centered thing) and the other right thing (the people pleasing thing) all at once. The church leaders can feel pulled in several financial directions. The desire to please everyone and serve all things well becomes overwhelming.

In my book, I shared a story about a church leader who needed a building torn down on the church property. He asked a congregate for a bid, the bid was high, yet he still felt obligated to use him because he did not want to offend him.

I have no doubt that the pastor was on mission to serve the church. But there are detours that we can make in serving our mission and they can come in two common forms:

  • Aversions – Discomforts we try to avoid (usually internal fears or preferences)
  • Diversions – Distractions to our calling (usually applied by external sources)

Avoiding Detours Caused by Aversions

Our desire to avoid conflict and uncomfortable situations can be a driving force in how we spend the money of the church.

After all spiritual leaders are not matadors, waving a red cape anyone to charge at them. While spiritual leaders are faithful, brave, and not remotely faint of heart, they value harmony in the church.

The problem lies in knowing the difference between solving conflict and avoiding it all costs. While we may be tempted to avoid upsetting others or creating conflict, we have a better option of using our gifts to solve conflict that may arise (when we make God-centered decisions that others do not agree with).

To stay on course, and avoid the aversion-based decision making, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is any part of this decision based in fear of being uncomfortable or fear of conflict?
  • Am I trying to please someone with this decision or is this the very best decision for the church in the long term?

While we may succeed in avoiding the conflict by succumbing to our aversions, we may lose valuable time or finances in a decision that was not well suited for the church in the long-run.

Avoiding Detours Created by Diversions

While an aversion is caused when we get off course to avoid something negative or uncomfortable, a diversion is caused when we are pulled off course by a distraction or a tug towards something that is off mission but not necessarily wrong.

Diversions often come in the form of people who have a different mission in mind. While the spiritual leaders of the church are living a calling to serve God and grow the church, there are people who are on a different mission. Their mission may not be bad or unethical. But it might be a diversion to the mission of the church.

When we are not carefully focused on our calling, it can become possible for us to be pulled off course even by good and decent church-going people. The decision can be good in many ways, yet still be wrong for the church.

Here are a couple of questions to helps us unravel this diversion tangle:

  • Have I come to this decision after a careful time of prayer and reliance on Scripture?
  • Will this decision leave a legacy that clearly reflects my calling, or will it somehow reflect external pressure on my team or me?

Aversions and diversions are mission-negative. And they reflect the motives of the individual rather than the mission of the church and the true and godly calling of the leader.

Instead of fear and pressure bending the mission, allow your calling to keep your focus on the One who called you there to begin with.

After all, whose mission is it anyway?