5 Lessons from the Church Planting Trends Study

5 Lessons from the Church Planting Trends Study

Church Growth, the Right Way I'm Scott Ball, a strategy and leadership consultant for churches like yours. I work with The Malphurs Group to equip churches to break through barriers,and maximize your impact for Christ. Download my free guide and learn 10 simple secrets that will help keep guestsfrom leaving through the back door (and even help attract higher numbers of first-timers). Yes! Send It Now   The older I get, the less I understand haircuts. Now, I live in East Tennessee—so however cool people are cutting their hair in New York and LA will be how cool people in my neck of the woods will cut their hair in ten years. So I’ve got plenty of time to adjust to the hipster haircuts I see on television and the Internet. But I have to be honest. Sometimes, I just don’t get it. Why does a man have a bun? Why is a mullet considered shady but buzzing your hair on the back but letting it grow long on the top (the reverse mullet?) totally fine? Are mohawks back in style now? Also, hats? If I ever put on one of these hip cowboy/sombrero/orthodox Jewish hats, my wife may slap me. I’m certain that the hats are cool. I’m just also certain that I am not. And here’s a confession: I’m not that old. So I can only imagine the groans that must escape the mouths of long-established pastors and leaders when they see an article titled like mine or read this article on Christianity Today—one of their most popular posts in 2015. Hearing about church planting trends or seeing something that implies that “established”...
Election 2016: Where Is God and Where Are You

Election 2016: Where Is God and Where Are You

Editor’s note: When I asked my colleague Tim Abraham to write what God put on his heart, I never expected a piece on politics. And this isn’t a site about politics. It’s a site about leadership. That said, journey through this wonderfully written piece by Tim and you’ll see why this isn’t just relevant to Christians in general but leaders in particular. Those of us who want to lead well in our churches must understand what it means to navigate politics in 2016: all eyes in your church are on you. We would all be wise to learn from Tim’s thoughts here. Enjoy. Politics and religion—the two topics that either extinguish or ignite conversations. With the continued rise of social media and the devolution to the one-minute news cycle, ignited conversations continuously combust into uncontrollable wildfires.  The fires’ wake leaves scorched remains of divineness, destruction, and decay on our social and individual levels. The toll of the 2016 presidential election process—in only its middle stages—looks more like the dark, scorched earth after General Sherman’s march compared to the bright, shining light Lady Liberty represents.  Prominent voices from all spectrums of politics and religion attempt to resonate louder with words of critical analysis, calls to action, criticism and admonishment, and a cupboard of anything else. Christians are not above these actions, immune to their implications, or free from their fallout.  So, we must ask:  In this tumultuous political and spiritual time, how are we to follow Jesus and share His gospel, all for God’s glory?  Said differently:  How will God work in us and through us so we may mature in our relationship with...
The Four Sources of Suffering

The Four Sources of Suffering

Across all nationalities and all generations and all religions, suffering is the common human experience. For the past couple of days I’ve been writing a message that I’ll preach soon on the relationship between glory and suffering, but before I could get past suffering to talk about glory, I needed to tackle the question everyone asks: Why do we suffer? If God is so good, if he is so powerful, why do we suffer? I’ll tackle this quite a bit in the message when I preach it (Note: if I get a recording of it, I’ll link here later). But since the topic has been on my mind all week, I wanted to write about this question in more depth here. Religion has long sought an answer to the cause of suffering and long sought the ability to end suffering. In fact, Buddhism, one of the largest religions in the world, is built strictly on defining suffering and its end. But all religions have attempted to define suffering and root out its cause because it encompasses so much of the human experience: sadness, depression, anger, fear, pain, loss, confusion–all of these emotions are connected to suffering. One could argue that the average human life is comprised far more of suffering than the absence of it. As believers, where does Scripture tell us suffering comes from? The Bible actually identifies four sources of suffering: 1) Our sin. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve committed the “original sin” which condemned all flesh to be not only inheritors of sin but active participants in it. Regardless of where you land on the...
Big Announcement: Joining a New Team

Big Announcement: Joining a New Team

Healthy Leaders + Healthy Churches = Gospel Impact.   That’s the formula at the core of what I do as a writer, consultant, and coach. I firmly believe that when churches have a crystal clear picture of their mission, vision, values, strategies, and measures–they’re only half-way to reaching their maximum impact. The other half is developing a leadership team with healthy systems and structures. All of this only works, too, if the leadership has an abiding connection to the work of the Holy Spirit. It takes a healthy organization, and it takes healthy leaders for churches to reach their fullest potential.   In July 2015, I launched ScottBall.net with this clear statement: leadership matters. Since that time, I’ve dedicated this website to providing free resources and content that helps you and your church become healthy so you can make an impact. Thousands of you have read the articles on this site, and benefited from (what I hope is) encouraging, honest, and actionable content.   In October 2015, I took things to the next level by beginning to work hands-on with churches and leaders to help them in their unique context through consulting, coaching, and workshops. I’ve been leveraging my efforts at this singular effort: to help leaders like you and churches like yours to be healthier. In just these short months, I’ve been encouraged by your stories of God’s healing, and inspired by the work you pour into making your churches better for the Kingdom. I’m glad to say that this new phase of ministry for me in working with leaders and churches is just beginning.   As of February 2016, I’m excited...
Why Churches Die a Slow Death

Why Churches Die a Slow Death

Left to itself, the universe tends towards chaos. This is the fundamental truth behind the Second Law of Thermodynamics. “The state of entropy of the entire universe, as an isolated system, will always increase over time.” Even when a productive reaction occurs in chemistry, there is always a byproduct of randomness and chaos. The arc of the universe is towards a slow death—the very life and energy being sapped away. A rolling ball will lose its energy until it stops. A rubber band will break or snap back rather than be infinitely stretched. And a church that exists within a closed system will tend towards a slow death: void of energy but filled with chaos. In physics, chemistry, and the church, the only thing that stems the affect of entropy is intentional, outside energy that works to accomplish a specific outcome. In Robert Quinn’s book Building the Bridge as You Walk on It, he states, “Given the choice between deep change or slow death, we tend to choose slow death.” Deep change requires outside energy, intentionality, and genuine leadership. The concept of change threatens the status quo, a sense of normalcy, and the perception of equilibrium. However, what most churches refuse to accept is that change is always happening. In a closed system, a church will always be changing towards entropy. While the externals can be managed to look like things are going well, the internal reality is that the organization is unraveling. Let’s be clear: if your church remains a closed system, resistant to the outside energy required for fundamental and deep change, your church will inevitably die. Quinn further states in his...
Say No to Bad Coffee – A Theology of Hospitality

Say No to Bad Coffee – A Theology of Hospitality

Good coffee matters, and so does your theology of hospitality. This past summer, the church I was working at tried a different approach to small groups during the summer. Rather than encouraging groups to meet throughout the summer months in homes and compete with vacations, travel, ball games, and pool parties, we decided to house our groups on our campus. Groups could meet, mingle with other groups, and not have the stress of hosting at their own home. It was a great idea on paper, and in some ways it worked and didn’t work in other ways. That’s an article for another day. Here’s one thing that definitely didn’t work: my coffee. I’m the master of making coffee in my own home with my own coffee pot. I’ve got the measurements down, and let’s be honest, I mostly use a Keurig. But making coffee in the large, commercial coffee maker at the church? Foreign territory. I had been trained by people who knew how to do it, and yet more than half the time, I still got it wrong somehow. The coffee I was brewing looked and tasted like motor oil. A coffee stirrer would stand straight up. It was thick. It was disgusting. Truth be told, I had a good relationship with most of the people who were coming on those Wednesday nights so the worst I risked was good-nature ribbing. I had tried, and that’s what counts, right? Maybe in that case yes, but when it comes to the hospitality ministry of your church… no. The hospitality ministry of your church makes a significant impact on guest retention...