Church Involvement

Creating a Culture of Involvement in Every Church

Month: September 2015

When People Say “No”

NO1When People Say “No”

We assume that God’s people will always say “Yes” when we ask them to do something.   When a congregation is smaller there is an unwritten rule that you have to say “Yes” to every request because ‘everybody is suppose to pitch in,’ and there aren’t many other folks to ask.

When it comes to larger churches, it is more likely to have someone say “No” to a request.   Sometimes, this doesn’t sit well with us.   So what do we say or do when we get a negative response to our requests?

  1. Realize people can say “No” just like you can say “No.”   I think it is interesting that we say “No” to others and yet when it comes to our brethren, we always expect them to say “Yes.”   When they don’t, we get upset.   We forget that they have as much right (and reason) to say “No” as we do when we say it.
  2. Realize that neither you nor your ministry are being rejected.   When a person says “No” to our request it does not automatically mean that the person rejects us personally or our ministry.   He/she may say “No” because of time (or other) restraints, lack of giftedness or passion for the item of request or for some other personal reason—even disinterest or laziness.   Don’t take any negative response as a personal rejection.
  3. Accept the fact that some folks have boundaries.   Most Americans (including members of the church) have no boundaries in their lives. A boundary is something that assists you in saying “Yes” to the things you should “Yes” to and “No” to the things you need to say “No” to. When you don’t have boundaries you get over committed financially and time wise.

Some Christians (as Jesus did) actually have boundaries (cf.Eph.5:15) and they have learned to say “No” when they need to say “No.” We need to respect such boundaries 

  1. Think of other possibilities.   Is the person you asked the only person who can do what you request?   In some very rare cases, it may be so. However, in most cases, there are several people that can be contacted. Yes, it is difficult to approach someone you don’t know.   However, you need to try this approach to finding new help.
  2. Graciously accept their response.   When people said “No” to Jesus (and they did), He didn’t argue, throw a fit, threaten them or get mad. In fact, in one case, it grieved Him.   He accepted the negative answers of those whom He loved and had invited to follow Him.   I’m sure it broke His heart, but He still accepted their refusal to follow.   The best we can do is accept the answer.   However, we may want to ask, “May I ask you again in the future?”
  3. Negotiate.   Sometimes we need to find out why the person said “No.”   Sometimes we ask him/her to do too much.   Could you break the project down and delegate the different parts to different people?   When negotiating, ask a person to do part of a project instead of the whole project. Ask them what part they would like. Give options and choices. Folks are more willing to do things if they have options and choices.


High Expectation Churches

Expectations5High Expectation Churches

When I was a boy, grade card time came around all too quickly.   I remember many times wanting to hide my school grade card so I wouldn’t have to face my parents (especially when my grades were not very good).   My mother would always express concern but my Dad was a bit more emphatic.   He would say something like, “You’re not applying yourself,” or “You are capable of doing much better.”   I remember one time I replied, “Dad, I’m just stupid,” to which he immediately responded, “I don’t have any stupid children, and don’t ever say that again.”

It is obvious that my father expected much more of me than I did of myself.

My heavenly Father also has high expectations of me.   Not because I am exceptional. His expectations are high because He created me, re-created me in Christ (created for good works), and empowered me with His indwelling, a spiritual gift, life experiences, passions, His Word and hundreds of brothers and sisters to encourage me.   This is why He can rightfully expect more of me than I do of myself or more than others.

With this story in mind, I’ve noticed over the years two kinds of churches, when it comes to expectations.   There are congregations that don’t expect much of their members and there are churches that have higher (than normal) expectations of their members. And, it shows.   Low expectation churches aren’t growing and most members come and go at will and never seem to grow spiritually and the community doesn’t know about them.   On the other hand, churches who are aware of the high expectations of Christ and have ‘high expectation’ elders are known in the community, they are growing both numerically and spiritually—it really shows.     Simply put:  brethren become what we expect of them.  Sometimes we expect too little.

Now, I am NOT promoting a “performance” theology.   However, I am promoting a Christ-like theology, an abundant living theology and a “faith working through love” theology.  I am promoting discipleship.  When we intentionally look at God’s Word wanting to do what He expects, church leaders will lead and empower members for service.   Jesus expects us to be disciples and to produce fruit. He expects us to be light and salt. He expects us to be holy and righteous.    And, we are enabled to be all of these.   Even the Hebrew writer expected more of the brethren (6:9).

About twenty years ago, some brethren were discussing how new members should be told what was expected of them when they placed membership.   These same folks were criticized.   I understand there is always the possibility of abuse of anything good.   However, many of us have taken this to the opposite extreme:   we don’t expect much of the brethren or we don’t tell members what is expected of them.  Many members of the church are left to figure out what the leaders expect of them.    I suggest church leaders have the right to expect the same things of church members as did Jesus and those expectations need to be verbalized often.

Church leadership needs to raise the bar.   It takes guts, it takes faith, it takes prayer and it takes a lot of hard work, but the payoff is huge: the brethren are blessed, the lost are reached and taught, children grow up being disciples, and people in our church and community are the recipients of the good things our ministries provide.

Is your congregation a “High” or “Low” expectation church?   What are you presently doing to make it a congregation seeking to fulfill the Lord’s expectations?


Books I Recommend

Books1Some Helpful Books

Every minister has his favorite books and so do I.   The following is a partial list of books I have found helpful in my involvement ministry as I write, speak, teach, coach and share. There are no perfect books except the Bible, so please don’t think that I agree with every single word in them. Each has a mustard seed that makes each worthy of ownership and reading. Please share what your favorites are.

Thriving in the Second Chair by Mike Bonem (

Leading from the Second Chair: Serving Your Church, Fulfilling Your Role and Realizing Your Dreams by Mike Bonem and Roger Patterson

Me & You and the People in the Pews by Tracy Moore.   Tracy looks at the four different personality traits of people in the church and defines them and shows some possible positives and negatives.  He applies the fruit of the Spirit to them and makes suggestions.   This is really a neat book and one that would make for a very interesting and challenging adult study in a congregation.   Jenkins Institute is the publisher.   I highly recommend the book for personal enlightenment or to use in an adult Bible class.  Tracy will be out keynote speaker at the 3rd annual Church Involvement Conference on January 18 & 19, 2019.

Everyday Genesis by Nika Maples.   When I was undergoing cancer treatment in 2016, several people recommended Nika’s book Hurting Hope.   My wife and I read it and it appeared to be a dark book (its subtitle is “Dig Through the Darkness to Find the Light”; I guess it’s subtitle warns you of its darker side).   However, her latest book Everyday Genesis is a bright and hopeful book.  Nika has much better health than she did in her first book and she is determined for find her place in God’s economy.   I love this book because she discovered her spiritual gift and used it.   I will not give away the story, but I believe that every serious child of God should read it.   I think it would be a good Bible class read.

The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon, and The Neighboring Church by Rick Rusaw and Brian Mavis.   Both of these books quote each other and the topic is the same:  we need to follow the second command of loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.   The book is biblical and full of stories and suggestions on how to be better neighbors which in turn makes us better and more effective in our faith as Christians.   This is faith and a gospel that is seen by a lost of dying world.   Every church needs to have classes on this topic; these two books would make for great study and discussion.

Growing Young by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder and Brad Griffin.   It’s old news that churches are losing millennials are a record pace—in fact, most/many millennials have rejected the Christian religion.   In their book, the authors encourage the church to think and grow young as a means of reaching the younger generations.   This is a well thought out and documented book and is worthy of our study.   If we are really interested in the lost youth, we will read this and make necessary changes.

Living Forward, A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want by Michael Hyatt an Daniel Harkavy.   There are dozens of books like this and this one of the most practical of them all.   Most of us, and even most churches, are drifting; we have no passion and we are making no progress.   We have little direction in our lives and it shows.   If you are serious about “Living Forward” and living a life of intention, this book is for you.   These two men offer the help needed to do what many of us have intended to do all our lives.

Created for Good Deeds by Mike O’Neal (21st Century Christian).  I met Mike last week.  He is a retired NASA employee and is a very interesting person to talk to.  You might want to check out his website at  He has written 3 books and this is the one that I have bought and read.   It is a ‘must’ for an involvement minister because this is what involvement ministry is all about:  good deeds.  Mike’s book is a biblical study of God’s creating us for good deeds; it is well exegeted and he has everyday illustrations of people who do good deeds.  I’ve never seen such a book: it is easy to read and it is not heavy like some books of this nature.   It is as practical as it is  biblical.   If you want to get your brethren ‘pumped’ for doing good deeds, this is the book to study.   It also includes excellent discussion questions.

Mind Set–The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck of Stanford University.   Dr. Dweck has discovered that there are 2 basic mind sets in humans: the that says  (1)  I can’t change and the other which says (2)  I can change.   If your mind set is set (inflexible) you cannot and will not success.   However, if you are open to being more and learning more, you are more likely to be successful.   The reason I like this book is because many Christians think they can’t grow and change (fwhich is alse doctrine) and the same can be said of churches.   However, if Christians and churches are to grow spiritually and numerically they must have an open mind that God can change them and empower them for such growth.

The New Breed–Understanding & Equipping the 21st Century Volunteer by Jonathan and Thomas McKee

This book was recommended to me by Joshua Pappas of  LaVergne church of Christ (TN).   Written by a father and son, when read, you will learn how to approach millennials and folks that are self-centered when needing volunteers.   An excellent read for elders, deacons and those who have to ask for volunteers.

The Equipping Church Serving Together to Transform Lives by Sue Mallory.   This is a standard book on involvement and worthy of reading.   Sue Mallory is encouraging her readers to produce disciples.   Very practical.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All Gary McIntosh

Every congregation and every person is different and should be treated in that manner.    Gary McIntosh has several good books that everyone should read.

3 books on coaching:   Coaching for Christian Leaders by Linda Miller and Chad Hall, Christian Coaching by Gary Collins and Co-Active Coaching by Laura Whitworth, Karen Kimsey-House, Henry Kimsey-House and Philip Sandahl.  A part of the work of good effective involvement ministry is coaching.   If you wish to be an effective involvement minister you need to be a good coach and be able to train others to be coaches in the church.   Our job is to help folks see how God can use that which He has given them in practical ways.   Coaching helps folks discover what they have and how they can be using it for His glory.   If you haven’t started training to be a coach, you need to start today with these three books.   Coaching is a lot different from consulting, training and mentoring.  You will see the difference.  I will also be happy to come and train members of your church in coaching.

Break Out Churches   Thomas Rainer

The Servant Driven Church   Ray Fulunwider

Written by a good friend and a wonderful person to listen to; Ray is full of good advice and stories about church growth.   The thesis of the book is that every Christian is a servant and service should be the driving force in the church.   He has also written The Prayer Driven Church: another excellent book.

The Other 80 Percent   Thumma and Bird

These two authors show you how to get the other 80% of your church serving instead of always relying on the same 20% to do everything.

Essential Church Thomas Rainer

Simple Church   Thomas Rainer

You Are Gifted   Ken Hemphill

High Expectations   Thomas Rainer

Team Ministry   Dr. Larry Gilbert

Much of the Material from

When God Grows a Church   Bob Russell

A Balance the late Ira North

The Purpose Driven Church   Rick Warren

Becoming Your Favorite Church   London and Wiseman  

The Great Niche Hunt  Frahm and Rinehart

Everything Must Change   Bryan McClaren

Are You Committed?   Jay McSwain of PLACE Ministries

I have received training from Jay.  Jay wants church folks to get serious and make total commitment to serving the Lord using our gifts, etc. for His glory.   Many churches and their leaders are not as committed as the Lord desires.

Live Your Calling   by Brennfleck and Brennfleck

Discover Who You Are   Kise, Stark and Hirsh

Grace Gifts   Dan Knight

Mentor Like Jesus   Regi Campbell

Bearing Fruits   Weems and Berlin

Orchards   H. Dan Mullins

Bearing Fruit Diana Kleyn

Understanding How Others Misunderstand You Ken Votes and Ron Braund

Most of the problems among people is personality related.   God gave us different personalities for a reason.   However, we do not take such into account and there is conflict when we don’t.    Your personality either complements your gift and other people in the church, or it causes conflict and adversely affects your ability to serve well.

The Gift of Prophecy Wayne Grudem

The most thorough study on this gift.

Becoming a Vessel God Can Use Donna Partow

Every Life a Plan of God  the late Batsell Barrett Baxter

Is Your Church ‘High Maintenance’?


Is Your Church ‘High Maintenance?’


A good mechanic friend of mine told me years ago that any car will last longer if its owner will do regular maintenance.   This includes scheduled oil changes, keeping all the fluids ‘topped off,’ and keeping the vehicle clean.   From my personal experience, I have found this to be true.   I’ve also seen cars that were not maintained properly and they wore out much faster than they should have.

When it comes to the church, we could ask: “is your church ‘high maintenance’?”   Churches, like cars, need constant maintenance.   Churches have much more value because they is made up of souls.   If churches fail to do maintenance on their members, the members will grow weak and fall away.   Churches (and the sheep in them) need shepherding, protecting, leading, guiding, feeding and comforting.   They need constant maintenance.

However, some churches are (what I call) “HIGH” maintenance churches.   While it is important to provide the things that make for a strong congregation, some churches are made up of folks that are high maintenance.

Some folks are high maintenance and have no choice in being so.   They need special attention.   Here are some examples:   new Christians (babes in Christ),   shut-ins, those who have lost loved ones, those who have lost jobs or their health, etc.   These are the folks that need special attention from time to time.   We exist to serve them.   They actually provide us with opportunities of service.

Some Christians are high maintenance and yet they do have a choice.   These are the church members who always have some issue in their lives that is related to their not being stronger Christians.   These are folks that are always missing Bible classes and worship assemblies.   They aren’t involved in church ministry.   They are sometimes referred to as ‘fringe’ members. They live lives of constant drama.   They are always worried about something, they have difficulty forgiving others, the elders have to call them every week to check on them (sometimes they are offended when called and sometimes they are offended because they aren’t called).   Some of them feel neglected, unappreciated, overlooked, slighted, unfriended, lonesome, unconnected, etc.   However, they get invited to every church event, they are greeted when they attend worship, and yet they just don’t seem to ‘get it.’   These are high maintenance members.   They have not put forth the effort to grow spiritually.   In many of these cases, they are the third soil mentioned in the Parable of the 4 Soils (Luke 8; Mark 4).    Some of these are the folks that Paul mentions in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-15.   They expect the faithful to serve them and they never reach the spiritual maturity required to become servants.   They are self-centered and fleshly minded.   They have chosen to remain spiritually immature.  The church leaders and many members spend countless hours trying to reach these folks and help them become faithful members.

What do you do with high maintenance folks?   There is a sense in which there is nothing more we can do for these folks (other than what we’ve already implied).     However, we must make sure they are loved, shown concern, exhorted, communicated to, encouraged and above all, (knowingly and obviously) accepted.   They need phone calls, personal invitations, hospitality, one-on-one visits and prayer.   We need to get them involved in some sort of ministry.  And, such efforts may take years before they become useful servants in the church.

When do you give up?   High maintenance folks keep us from working with other members and non-members.   Much of this ‘high maintenance’ nature can be prevented when folks are taught and baptized into Christ.   Before we baptize folks, they need to understand what the Lord (and the brethren) expect of them: they are to be disciples.   See Matthew 28:19 – Christ says, “Go make disciples….”

Sometimes we are so excited about getting folks baptized that we forget what it means to obey the gospel.    When people obey the gospel, they die to the old self and arise to the new self in Christ.    They become disciples of Christ.  Usually we talk about their giving up sins in their lives—and rightfully so.   However, we need to also tell them what the Lord expects of them:  growth and service.   These last two things need to be illustrated and explained to the person who is about to be baptized.   These are a part of his/her counting the costs of being a Christian.

Discipleship is more than church membership.   Church membership (to some folks) has become synonymous to showing up to a church service every-once-in-a-while and having their name on the church roll.   However, discipleship includes thinking like Jesus, suffering like Jesus, learning from Jesus, praying like Jesus, worshiping like Jesus, following Jesus, talking like Jesus, loving like Jesus, sacrificing like Jesus, living like Jesus, giving like Jesus, telling others about Jesus and serving like Jesus, and above all, laying down our lives for Jesus and His followers.   Discipleship calls for total commitment to the Lordship of Jesus (cf. Gal.2:20-21; Luke 9:23).   Church membership is important but discipleship is what will make a greater difference in our lives.    The word “disciple” and other derivatives of that word is found over 168 times in the New Testament.    The word “Christian” is a wonderful/beautiful word, but it is used only 3 times in the New Testament.    It appears that God is serious about our being disciples.    He has so much to say about it and He uses the word so often.

This should be the goal of any elders, evangelist, Christian and Bible class teacher: to assist others Christians and non-Christians to become disciples of Christ.   When we intentionally purposefully seek to make disciples, there will be fewer high maintenance members and the church will grow numerically as well as spiritually.   It is worth the effort involved for all involved.   Trav

The Spirit of a Servant

Washingfeet1The Spirit of the Servant

This wasn’t the first time they had been fighting over who was the greatest. This wasn’t the only time they vied for position.   This was one more time that Jesus had an opportunity to teach the twelve about service. He simply got a bowl of water and a towel and started washing feet.   Although his mind was preoccupied with Calvary, He took time to teach them a lesson:   “…I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15).   The greatest title given to Jesus, I believe, is “servant” (cf.Phil.2:4ff). Are we so described?

Today some continue to vie for position yet seldom do we clamor for the title “the greatest.”   However, we do something that condemns our motives just as easily: an appeal to our giftedness (or in this case our not being gifted with certain gifts).

We reason, “I don’t have the gift of exhortation, therefore I can’t greet.”   We say, “I don’t have the gift of evangelism, so I can’t invite.”   We continue, “I don’t have the gift of leadership so I can’t mentor.”   But the one that hurts the church the most is this one: “I don’t have the gift of service, therefore I can’t….”

Jesus obviously was God and He was a teacher (John 13:13) and an evangelist.   However, He came to us as a servant. He didn’t say, “I have the gift of service, therefore I must wash feet.”   He simply washed feet.   He did two things: (1) He taught by example, and (2) He fulfilled a required need or duty at that time.

Brethren, to maintain a church and get all the work done requires servants. Yes, the gifts are needed but what is needed above them is a servant’s heart.   We need men who lead worship because it is their duty to do so.   We need people to work in childcare because it needs to be done.   We need people to set up and clean up for fellowships because it has to be done.   We need greeters, folks to prepare communion, do bulletin boards, arrange pencils and cards in the pews and a host of other things.   Such do not necessarily require a spiritual gift; they require a servant’s heart.   Those who refuse to use their spiritual gifts also lack a servant’s heart.

If we aren’t careful we can become spiritual snobs and point to our spiritual gifts as excuses for not serving where we are all needed.   This was never the Spirit’s intention.     Trav

What Are My Passions?

rinRAReRTWhat are My Passions? When you are asked about your passions, what is being asked and why? These are the “Good” Passions A passion is a strong desire or drive. It can be good or evil.   Evil passions include lust, covetousness, and any type of evil desire.   However, there are good passions.   For example, some folks have a passion for mission work, orphaned children, the terminally ill, those in grief, the poor, the illiterate or those who are incarcerated.   What are your passions? These are Personal Burdens When you feel a ‘burden’ for a person or a group of persons, this is your passion.   Above I illustrated some of these.   Do you feel ‘burdened’ (called to do something) for certain people in need?   This is something that touches your heart emotionally and you feel a call to help any way you can. This is your passion. These are Things that Possess You A passion is something that possesses you: it’s on your mind constantly. You are constantly thinking of ways of meeting the need, asking for funds, telling others about it, looking for volunteers to join you and it’s being creative in assisting those with a particular need. These are Things that You Would Die For A passion is something that you would sacrifice your last penny for. It is something that you would be willing to put yourself in harm’s way for. You are willing to give limitless time for it and are willing to do it for free.   This is not necessarily something you “like” to do; it is something you must do. Why? When you know what your passions are, you are close to being ready for ministry related to that passion.   However, I would encourage you to look at your spiritual gifts to see how they would complement your passions.

In our I Serve U inventories we guide folks through the process of discovering their ‘people’ passions (those they wish/prefer to serve) and their ‘thing’ passions (the manner in which they prefer to serve).   Below is a great example of this from one of my friends.


I want to encourage you to go this link; this is an example of a ‘thing’ passion and a ‘people’ passion at work for one of my involvement minister friends:  Tim Lavender of Smyrna, TN.  He writes,

My passion is to work with kids, and I love model planes so here is what I have done with my hobby and my passion for the church.

I want to strongly encourage our readers to read an article by my good friend Dr. Tim Gunnells, entitled “Has the Passion Gone Out of Your Marriage (to Christ)?”

If you follow the advice implied here, your passions will continue to be strong.

Has the Passion Gone out of Your Marriage (to Christ)?


A Simple Church

churchbuildingA Simple Church 

Why does ‘church’ have to be so complicated?   It doesn’t.   We’ve made it complicated.   Simple churches grow spiritually and numerically simply when:

Strong members make strong families which then make strong churches.   If each and every member of the church spent his or her time and energies growing to be a strong individual, we’d have a strong(er) church.   This simply means that every individual member needs to take personal responsibility for him/herself.   Too much time, effort and money are spent chasing after members and trying to assist (or beg) them in growing up in Christ.   What if each member did what he or she should do?   Most of our time, money and effort in the church is spent trying to get people to do what they should be doing on their own. It’s kind of nuts, isn’t it?

Every individual member takes part in the work and worship of the local church. Wow, now there’s a wild concept.   What if every individual member took it upon him/herself to come to worship no matter what?   What if each member took the time and effort to discover, develop and deploy his/her spiritual gifts, passions and life experiences in ministry without having to be chased down and begged to do so?   What if every member was friendly and contributed to an atmosphere of love and care in the church? It’s rather simple, yet we make it complicated by allowing the world to dictate our lives and thinking.   It’s all about God, folks!

Simple churches will grow when members build relationships with lost folks.   We’ve made soul-winning ridiculously complicated.   Soul-winning is a relationship and a conversation spurred by sincere love. If we really love people (and we will if we are mature Christians), we will naturally automatically reach out to folks.   It usually requires a bit of time to build a relationship.   When such folks become Christians we will continue to befriend them until they mature and become a working part of the local church and the cycle repeats itself.   Radically simple.

Why do we make everything so complicated?   Simply put:   we shift our personal responsibility over to someone else (usually the elders, deacons, Bible class teachers, other members, paid staff, etc.).   Many of us have gotten lazy and/or other brethren have enabled us to do so.

Wanna see your church explode with spiritual and numerical growth?   Take up your own cross of personal responsibility and intentionally grow as an individual and intentionally contribute something to the local church that will cause her to grow.   Simple.   Let’s ALL do it.   Trav

Objection:   not everyone is going to do this.   Agreed. However, we must create a culture of personal responsibility within the church that is intentional and noticed and stop playing the games that we play.   Assist people, lead people, train people, mentor folks and don’t do for folks what they need to be doing themselves.   A large majority of this church is contributing heavily to her growth. This article is for the rest who are not shouldering their responsibilities as Christians.

About this Website

About this Website

Welcome on the screen of desktop computer clipart

This website exists…

  1.  To encourage church involvement.   We are told that 4000 churches in the USA close their doors every year.   There are many reasons why this occurs. I believe one of them is lack of involvement in most churches.   In many churches, membership is little more than showing up for a religious service a few times a year and possibly contributing money.   However, if every member of the church was involved in intentional ministry, the church would be strong and would always be attracting new members and churches would not close their doors.
  2.  To assist congregations of the church of Christ.   I am member of the church of Christ.   My dad was in ministry in the church of Christ and I have been in full-time ministry in the church of Christ for over 45 years. I am most familiar with how leaders and members of the church of Christ think, worship and work.   I think I can be helpful to them.   However, there is material found on this website that can be helpful to any group of believers.
  3.  To create discussion.     Many churches have a pulpit minister and youth minister.   Very few have involvement ministers.   I am hoping to connect to involvement ministers (as well as to church leaders) to create some discussion about what we are doing where we are.   I would like to share some ideas and I would very much like to hear from other involvement ministers to hear of their successes and, yes, their failures.

Contact information: or

You can also call or text 423 920 3060.   Travis Irwin of Athens, TN


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