2016 Archives

Ready Or Not, Here It Comes…The End-Of-The-Year Appeal

fundraising-ideas-creative

You know that the word “Fundraising” is nowhere in the Bible. But you also know that Jesus spoke about money more times than any topic except the kingdom of God. Of the 39 parables in Scripture, 11 of them address the subject of money.

The end of the year is a popular time to address the topic of raising money. From a non-profit perspective, November and December is the most productive period of donor giving.

Not many church planters have a Development Officer on their staff. (Wouldn’t that be great?) That being said, how do you learn the tools of the fundraising trade?

We live in an age where the resources you need are right at your fingertips! To save you some time, we recommend these five tips on how to create an effective end of the year appeal letter.

First of all, Pray! Our Father in Heaven owns the cattle on a thousand hills! Before you begin to write, get on your knees (and ask your intercessors to do the same), asking God for wisdom. Not only does He give generously to those who ask, but He knows exactly how you are going to spend your monies in the next year, and He knows exactly how it will be provided! Take the time to thank Him in advance for His provision.

Secondly, as you begin to draft the letter, Cast Your Vision. People need to know to where God is calling you and how you are going to get there. Tell stories of how giving has impacted your mission–especially at the grassroots level. Reading a testimony may resonate with a possible donor in a way your vision never has before.

Thirdly, Focus on the Donors. Instead of saying what your church plant has done, focus on the givers in your letter. (One of the favorite words a reader likes to see is “you!”) Remind them that it is their giving which has allowed the stories you’ve shared to be told. And thank them for it.

Lastly, Personalize Your Letter. Sure, your letter will probably be computer generated, but do your absolute best to avoid a general salutation. Studies show that a simple “Dear Friend” actually increases that chance that the letter is will be thrown away without being read. Include the recipient name(s)–correctly spelled–and address, if possible.

P.S….Include a Post Script! A P.S. is sometimes read before the body of the letter. Take the time to thank the donor again, let them know how much money you are hoping to raise, give them the deadline for giving, or any call to action. If you have the time, a hand-written note makes for an effective post script.

What did we miss? Email, and let us know what you have found to be effective tools in your end-of-year appeal toolbox

by Titus Managing Director Jenni Bartling            November 10, 2016

Our Favorite Podcasts

According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, podcasting, first known as “audioblogging,” has its roots dating back to the 1980s. With the advent of broadband internet and portable digital audio playback devices such as the iPod, podcasting began to catch hold in late 2004.
So, that means podcasts have been around for more than 30 years, with increasing accessibility in the last decade. And, in case you are interested, the five most popular subjects on US iTunes are News & Politics; Christianity; Professional Sports & Recreation; Philosophy & Self Help; and Comedy.
Like many other folks, we at Titus find podcasts to be not only entertaining, but educational and inspirational. They are a helpful, flexible learning format that you can take anywhere–on a run, as you travel, while you are cleaning the house, waiting in the doctor’s office…you name it!
We are always looking for new resources to offer our church planters and ministry leaders, and our podcast library is full of them. Here are a few of our favorites:
The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast 
Rainer on Leadership Podcast
The New Churches Q&A Podcast
The Always Forward Podcast 
Exponential Podcast
Tear Gas and Gumdrops
And, as church planters, it is important to sit under the teaching of other pastors, and be inspired by their sermons–which you can also do via podcasts. We love to listen to these folks:
Crazy Love Podcasts (with Francis Chan)
Timothy Keller Sermons Podcast
The Gospel Coalition Podcast (a variety of speakers)
Renewing Your Mind with RC Sproul 
Pray as You Go
What are you listening to? Let us know!
by Titus’ Managing Director Jenni Bartling September 7, 2016

Learning To Work From Rest: How Is Your Sabbath?

 

Consistently hearing the question, “How are your quiet times?” from one of my ministry mentors did three things for me during the season we served together: One, it held me accountable. Eric really wanted to know how my time with God was going; Two, it was a great prompt. If I’d not been having daily devotional times, it was a great reminder to do so; and Three, that question showed me someone cared about my spiritual life as much or more than the work I was doing. Eric knew that time alone with the Lord had to be foundational to my service.

Following his example, and raising the ante, “How is your Sabbath?” is probably the most frequent question I ask my ministry colleagues and church planters. (And remember, as a coach, I ask a lot of questions!) Unfortunately, many times the response I get includes some hemming and hawing. But why? What makes taking the honoring the Sabbath do difficult?

You know the scriptural support for having a weekly Sabbath: God worked six days and rested on the seventh.

“But what about all the work that needs to be done?” Fair question. Church planting is demanding, and it seems the to-do list is never ending. But if taking a Sabbath was good enough for God, it should be for us, as well.

Working without rest does not honor God.  How we obey the commandment to “honor the Sabbath and keep it holy” reflects our priorities. When we can’t stop working because there is too much to do, we’re saying that we don’t trust God’s dominion over our work. That He needs us to accomplish His Kingdom efforts. (Newsflash! He does not.)

Full disclosure–I’m a fellow struggler. I love my work and the men and women I serve so much that it feels like a paid hobby for me! My job is energizing. However, when our lives are so full that we don’t make worshiping God a priority, and truly take rest from our work, we’re saying our earthly desires are more important than our relationship with him. Our jobs can become our gods.

Daily quiet time (or daily Sabbath) is enriched when one practices weekly Sabbath. Here are some tips Tom Herrick, Titus’ executive director, uses to help him honor the Sabbath:

  1. Look forward to a day of rest! Block out a day (it helps to make it the same one each week) in your calendar, and protect it.
  2. Have accountability. There is grace, of course, but it is helpful to know my team is going to ask me about my calendar and the Sabbath I’m carving out.
  3. Look for the fruit. After practicing the Sabbath for a few weeks, look at your to-do list, and be realistic about how far behind you are. You’ll be amazed at the productivity that comes with working from rest.
  4. Know God is behind you on this! As Senator Joe Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew writes, “The Sabbath is an old but beautiful idea that, in our frantically harried and meaning-starved culture, cries out to be rediscovered and enjoyed by people of all faiths. The Sabbath was given as a gift from God to everyone.”

Summer is a great time to begin practicing the Sabbath. Take time now, in preparation for the busy fall season. See what it is like to work from rest, instead of the other way around. I’ll venture to say that, as a popular restaurateur in my hometown used to say, “You’re gonna like it!”

By Titus’ Managing Director Jenni Bartling July 19, 2016 

Where Is God’s Center?

instilling a missional imagination   part two of three

One of the great questions we have to deal with today as the Church is how to relate to our culture. This is a complex question that resists simple solutions, yet it is a vital part of learning to think and act missionally. In the midst of a rapidly changing world, we can find ourselves vacillating between various postures: “going with the flow” (you can’t change City Hall), actively building walls of separation, or ignoring what is happening altogether.

Unless we learn to engage consistently, we will not be able to effectively communicate our message to those who most need to hear it. Tim Keller unpacks this for us in his book Center Church, explaining that churches can place their ministries on a continuum ranging from being “overadapted” at one extreme to “underadapted” at the other. His counsel is to find the center. This will be that place where we are able to affirm those values that closely align to those of the Kingdom of God, while simultaneously challenging and confronting those which do not.

Overadapting places us in danger of losing our unique identity as we gradually accept the idols of the culture and lose the credibility necessary to call others to change. Underadapting renders us irrelevant, as no one will listen to us, deeming us to be judgmental, confusing, or offensive. Keller says, “To the degree a ministry is overadapted or underadapted to a culture, it loses life-changing power.” (p. 24)

Church leaders have struggled to find the center from the very beginnings of the biblical record. Old Testament leaders well understood the tendency to overadapt to the surrounding cultures. Despite their love for the Mosaic Law, they struggled constantly with keeping it, as they succumbed to their desire to become more like the nations around them (1 Sam 8:4-9).

These instances of overadaptation resulted in their compromising their unique identity as God’s people. Despite reform movements under faithful kings like Hezekiah and Josiah, Israel typically found themselves slipping back into places of idolatry and spiritual adultery. Given their experience, it is understandable that some of their leaders would underadapt and become more separatists in their views, as the Pharisees were. Yet, this misses the point, too, just in the opposite direction.

The struggle to find the center came to a head in Jesus’ ministry.  His focus on the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” consistently placed him in the company of those furthest from God, much to the displeasure of the religious leaders. Fearful of syncretism, they constantly opposed his ministry and saw him as a threat to their way of life. Yet, Jesus was clear in his priorities and understood that reaching out to those who were sick and in need of the doctor didn’t indicate a lack of love or concern for those who were well. His example was (as remains) a clarion call to engagement. He was expressing the need to listen to those who were hurting and without hope, reaching out with the healing touch of a loving God. This was not syncretism—it was pure and unbounded love.

The Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles present a similar picture of a young church seeking to find God’s center. Following the vision of the great sheet containing all kinds of food, Peter reaches out to Cornelius and his household (Acts 10). His explanation to his fellow leaders reflects Jesus’ more nuanced understanding that one could maintain the call to holiness while simultaneously engaging the culture. Barnabas and Paul followed Peter’s lead in Antioch and later took the call to reach the entire Gentile world with the message of the Gospel as their primary mission.

Like Peter, Paul also understood that the call to holiness and the call to engage the culture were not mutually exclusive, but two sides of the same calling. In fact, it is clear that in Paul’s mind, one could not adequately live out his calling unless he was engaging the culture (1 Co 9:20-22). Ultimately, it is this vision that has fueled all of the great missionary movements throughout church history. These questions remain relevant for us today and must be addressed.

The Fresh Expressions Movement that began in the Anglican Church in the UK almost 20 years ago is a great example for us to follow. Pioneer planters began establishing relationships with micro communities that would never darken the doors of their churches. Biker gangs, prostitutes, skaters, and hip hop artists are just a few. The emphasis for them began with listening. Each of these groups represented a sub-culture that had developed its own ways of thinking and communicating. Each of them had little or no relationship to the Church. To communicate the Gospel, they reasoned, they needed to first understand the other’s language. To do this, they had to establish relationships first, gain trust, and gradually earn the right to be heard.

These relational bridges are “pre-evangelistic” and need to be strong enough before the Gospel can be shared. The key is to be sure the bridge is strong enough to hold the weight of the message. Today more than 10% of the Anglican Church in England is made up of these Fresh Expressions who were previously far from God and completely disconnected from the life of Christ and from the Church. All of this became possible because faithful missionaries stopped waiting for them to come visit their churches and decided to go to find them in the highways and byways of their communities.

As our churches grapple with finding the center, we too need to master the art of listening and learning how others think and what they believe. There are vast differences which must be bridged. In a recent meeting, the Missional Planning team from All Nations DC recently articulated it this way: “Who do we want to be? In working towards our goals, are we catering to who we currently have in the congregation or tailoring for who we want to reach?” Excellent question! Another way to ask this might be, “For whom are we doing our ministries: ourselves or others who need to receive what God has given to us?”

The faithful Church in the twenty-first century must find the middle ground, the solid center, where we are unapologetically faithful to the One who has called, redeemed, and is sanctifying us while also building bridges and sharing the Gospel with those who do not yet know or follow Him. This is the fullest expression of our discipleship.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   by Titus Executive Director Tom Herrick    July 7, 2016

 

Thinking & Acting Missionally

Instilling A Missional Imagination Part One Of Three

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
It has been exhilarating to be a part of the amazing shift that taking place within the Anglican movement over the past 10-20 years. Some refer to this shift as going from a maintenance mentality to a missional mode of doing ministry. I like to think of it as a heart change where we are learning to love the world the way Jesus does.
Although Jesus modeled for us how to care deeply for those who are not part of our church families, we are often slow to follow His lead. Hence, the need for a laser focus on missions-to ensure we are intentionally seeking the one still lost, not just caring for the 99 who are already in the fold.
Many people think of missions as an add-on for those who happen to be interested in that sort of thing or a luxury item for big churches who can afford it. The truth is that every church needs a missional DNA, especially new church plants. But how do we create this critical element, whether in an established congregation or in a new church?
I believe there are three practices that will greatly aid us in becoming missionally focused:
1) instilling a missional imagination;
2) learning to listen to and understand our culture; and
3) creating effective structures that will empower mission.
Together, these three elements will create a powerful ecosystem capable of moving any of our congregations out of the box and out the door.

This article will focus on the first of these practices, instilling a missional imagination, and will be followed by two others in coming weeks to complete the series as we explore how to create a missional church culture.The great saints in the Bible all shared a common trait: they were able to imagine how life could be different when one is in a relationship with the living God. They didn’t accept life as they were experiencing it as being the last word. They saw beyond the present circumstances to a world that was being cradled and transformed by the love of God. This became their standard and shaped what they thought and how they acted. In short, it became the driving force of their lives and defined reality for them. In Mary’s prayer, which we call the Magnificat, she expresses this so beautifully in these words,

“He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel,
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.”

We, too, learn to see life differently when we look through their eyes of faith. We realize that we are part of much larger mission that originates in the heart of God. We come to understand that this is his very nature. The God we are serving is missional to the core of His being. That is to say, God is a sending God. The Father sent the Son to redeem His lost creation; the Son sent the Spirit to empower the Church to spread the word; and now the same God sends us to complete this mission and bring the nations into the fold. Theologian Jürgen Moltmann notes that the Church does not have a mission of her own; God has a mission, so God created the Church to carry it out. This is known as the “missio dei” and we are invited not just to participate in it during our free times, but to see the whole of our lives in the context of it and to realize that our individual portions are significant pieces of a much larger puzzle. God is actually depending on us. He has no Plan B.

Once this takes root within our souls, it becomes life changing and begins to alter our priorities, our decisions, and our actions. Authors Branson and Warnes (Starting Missional Churches: Life with God in the Neighborhood) tell us that this takes shape in a number of ways. We begin to discern God’s initiatives, realizing that he is actively working every moment to bring the world to himself. As we press into this, we begin to see where we fit into God’s plans and how we can join him in what He is doing.

Missional thinking also helps us to see our neighbor differently. Rather than an object of our ministry efforts, s/he becomes a subject—one who is drawn to join and participate with us. We share our lives with others and invite them to claim their own calling from the God who loves them.

This type of life and mission necessitates “boundary crossing.” Like the God who is sending us, we are not content to sit idly by while others perish for lack of God’s love. We move beyond our own self-constructed walls and into the unknown without fear. And, we learn to go together.

Contrary to the hyper-individualistic culture in which we live, the missional mindset is shaped as a community gathered in Jesus’ name. We are never alone; nor are we sent out alone. We’re in this together, with each other and with the Holy Spirit, who empowers us. When we begin to think and act missionally, we are no longer content to go to church and live in the world. We realize that we must be the Church and go to the world. For, as St. Paul says, it is God who calls us to think and to act for his good purposes.

                                                                                                                                                           by Titus Executive Director Tom Herrick           June 8, 2016

A Playlist For Your Prayer List

Music

When launching a new congregation, prayer is your greatest asset as you seek to reach the people to whom God has called you. You can engage intercession at many levels: as a planter, it is imperative to have personal prayer warriors; your church should have its own intercessors; your leadership should be praying regularly for the hearts of those God may be preparing to visit your church.

And you can prayer walk. Have you tried it? Prayer walking is a great way to build community as you pray for your community. What might happen if members of your congregation began investing time seeking God’s direction, and asking His favor on the places where we live or frequent?

Below is our top-10 list of recommended music your prayer warriors could use while walking through their neighbor-hoods or driving through your targeted communities. The music (not played too loudly, of course!) helps to direct our prayers, and makes the experience even more worshipful.

The lyrics of Paul Baloche’s Open the Eyes of My Heart begs God to give us eyes to see things we’ve never noticed before.   “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord/Open the eyes of my heart/I want to see You.” It is a great way to begin your prayer walk–an opportunity to pray “on site with insight.”

The words of To Know You by Casting Crowns speaks to the difference our personal relationship with Jesus makes in our lives, and recognizing what it can do for others: “To know You is to never worry for my life/To know You is to never give into compromise and/To know You is to want to tell the world about You/’Cause I can’t live without You/”To know You is to hear Your voice when You are calling/To know You is to catch my brother when he is falling/To know You is to feel the pain of the brokenhearted/’Cause they can’t live without You.”

You’re the God of This City, by Chris Tomlin, offers praise to God, acknowledging who he is and the hope he offers: “You’re the Light in this darkness/You’re the Hope to the hopeless/You’re the Peace to the restless…/For greater things have yet to come/And greater things are still to be done in this City.”

We are challenged to serve and share the love of Christ with others in the words of Until the Whole World Hears, another song by Casting Crowns: “Ready yourselves, ready yourselves/Let us shine the light of Jesus in the darkest night/Ready yourselves, ready yourselves/May the powers of darkness tremble as our praises rise/Until the whole world hears, Lord, we are calling out/Lifting up your name for all to hear the sound/Like voices in the wilderness, we’re crying out/And as the day draws near/We’ll sing until the whole world hears.

The song Save My Life, by Sidewalk Prophets encourages us to look people in the eyes, and “Tell me what I need to hear/Tell me that I’m not forgotten/Show me there’s a God/Who can be more than all I’ve ever wanted.”

Every Man, also by Casting Crowns, reminds us that “There is hope for every man/A solid place where we can stand/In this dry and weary land/There is hope for every man/There is love that never dies/There is peace in troubled times/Will we help them understand/Jesus is hope for every man.”

Jeremy Camp’s song Jesus Saves urges us to “Sing it out/To let all the world know that Jesus saves/Raise a shout/To let all the world know that Jesus saves.”

The words to Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble? by Sonic Flood provide wonderful word-pictures: “We can see that God you’re moving/A mighty river through the nations/When young and old return to Jesus/Fling wide you heavenly gates/Prepare the way of the risen Lord!”

Donnie McClurkin’s The Days of Elijah also provides a pretty clear picture for us: “And these are the days of the harvest/The fields are all white in Your world/And we are the laborers that are in Your vineyard/Declaring the Word of the Lord.”

And, finally, be sure to include the well-love hymn, Amazing Grace. “Amazing Grace/How sweet the sound/That saved a wretch like me/I was once lost/But now am found/Was blind but now I see.”  It is because of God’s amazing grace that we are about praying for and reaching out neighbors. It was by His amazing grace that someone did the same for us!

What other songs would you add to our list? Feel free to email us with any suggestions you might have!

by Guest Blogger and Titus Regional Director Jenni Bartling           April 4, 2016

Do You See What God Sees?

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“Without vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18)

Tim Keller says, “Vision is a faithful restatement of the Gospel with rich implications for life, ministry, and mission in a type of culture at a moment in history.” Here at Titus, we like to define vision as a “picture of God’s preferred future for a church, organization or person.”

So, if God has His way, what will you see? God’s way is so much bigger than ours! The fact that He can do exceedingly more than we ask or imagine is astounding. And, sometimes, it can feel greedy/intimidating/overwhelming/ scary/______________ (fill-in-the-blank) to dream as big as God encourages us to do.

Church Planters, I want to encourage you to dream big! (And leaders of established churches, don’t be afraid to do the same.)

“We are on a mission from God” is not just a line from the “Blues Brothers” movie. We get to live mission out in front of our community, in our community, and with our community.

Think about it. What would be different if God’s reign was established in your community?  It’s an amazing question. Every locale has issues that do not line up with the reign of God, right? So, choose one or two of those issues, and determine to make those things right, by the grace of God, in your community

If you get started right now, what will your congregation’s neighborhood look like in five years?

Keep in mind there are two ways you can know your vision is from the Lord. Number one: It is consistent with Scripture. Number two: Allow God to confirm it. That confirmation can come in a number of different ways. One of the ways that it comes is in your sharing with other people, and their responses to it.

When a vision is from the Lord, there is a compelling nature about it. It just stirs you, and it stirs the people you are with. And it gets them excited about it as well.

The flipside of Proverbs 29:18 is, “With vision, the people gather!” The question is, “Do you see what God sees?”

Excerpted from Church Planter Bootcamp Training

the Rev. Tom Herrick and the Rev. Jay Baylor March 8, 2015

Taking CARE Of Your Planter Families

View More: http://benjaminbartlingdesign.pass.us/hilton-head-2015

When Titus conducts a church planting discernment interview, both husband and wife are required to participate in the exercise. There are a couple of reasons for that stipulation. One is because we use a behavioral interview–sometimes the spouse can nudge the memory of the planting candidate, and remind him or her of experiences in case of “brain freeze.” More importantly, though, it is so we can observe the interaction of husband and wife.

Doing all we can to protect the families of God’s ministers is a non-negotiable for us. Anyone who has participated in church planting knows how the ministry really can suck you in…and it is important that the family structure is prepared to balance the demands of the calling. We ask the husband and wife questions that reveal the ministry-personal balance of their lives together, tell us about how they resolve conflict, describe their respective roles and expectations in ministry, and indicate the level of shared convictions when it comes to church planting. Marital health is directly related to the success of a nascent church.

But what happens to the wife and children when the church planting ball gets rolling? (We know that many women are church planters, and it is the husband who provides spousal support. This article references “wives,” but certainly applies to husbands as well.)

Church planters have many demands on their time…meetings with leadership, meetings with supervisors, meetings with community leaders, meetings with staff, planning for outreaches, engaging in outreaches, preparing for worship, preparing the weekend’s message, preparing Bibles studies, visiting the hospitalized, spending time with mentors, spending time with accountability groups, connecting with a coach. The list goes on and on and on, and needs to include family demands as well!

And the spouses are not sitting at home eating bonbons! According to Parakleo, a support system for church planting wives, “The average church planting spouse (CPS) is heavily invested in the life of the church: She simultaneously leads 3.5 major ministries (or works outside the home) while serving as the primary childcare giver and providing extensive ministry hospitality. Over eighty percent of church planter wives surveyed reported a lack of denominational care and support. One hundred percent requested mentoring or some form of a support system.” That lack of support has been identified as a critical stressor in the marriage.

So, how are your church planting spouses supported? The acronym CARE denotes four ways that have proven successful:

Coach: The aim of coaching is to help others succeed—to discover what God wants them to do, and empower them to do it. The coaching relationship has proven effective time and time again with church planters. What would it be like to invest in the wives of your church planters, and come alongside them in a journey to success?

Assemble: Being a church planter/spouse/couple can be very isolating. Provide a safe place for your wives to share what’s on their hearts with others who are traveling the same road. Give them the opportunity to meet regularly with experienced women who have gone before them—and survived!

Resource: There are many books, blogs, Pinterest posts, and websites available to encourage church planter spouses and help them to navigate their unique situations. Be sure to make them available.

Evaluate: One on one, or in a group, give the spouse an opportunity to step back and see what the Lord has done in their midst. Too often one project or goal is accomplished, and we are pour ourselves into the next thing on the list. God celebrated the goodness at the end of each day he created. Shouldn’t we? Doing so will encourage your CPSes and the church planters in their lives!

Learn more about the Titus Church Planter Discernment Process here. Our next Coaching 101 is a perfect opportunity to learn how to coach your planters and their spouses!

by Guest Blogger and Titus Regional Director Jenni Bartling           February 3, 2016

 

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