Church Involvement

Creating a Culture of Involvement in Every Church

You are Invited to the 4th Annual Church Involvement Conference of January 24 & 25, 2020

You are Invited to the 4th Annual Church Involvement Conference

Learning from Others PLUS Widowhood Workshop

January 24 & 25, 2020 – Athens Church of Christ, Athens, TN

All Presentations will be in the auditorium except for Break Out Sessions

Friday, January 24 – Registration and Check-in time are from 8:30 to 9:00 – breakfast is not served

SNACKS & DRINKS will be available all today in the fellowship hall.  We request that you enjoy your snacks and drinks in the fellowship hall during the breaks.  Thank you.

9:00 to 9:45Is Leadership’s Greatest Aim to Keep Everyone Happy?

 Jerrie Barber, interim minister and director of New Shepherd’s Orientation & Shepherds Revitalization    

9:45 to 10:30  – Spiritual Matchmaking: The Art & Business of Disciple Making – Huston Oliver, administrator and involvement minister of Grace Chapel Church of Christ

Break:  10:30 to 10:45

10:45 to 11:30Sitting in the 2nd Chair – Tim Gunnells, professor at Amridge University and director of youth at Athens church of Christ, Athens, TN                                                       

Breakout sessions 11:30 to 12:10  –         Huston Oliver in the auditorium

Tim Gunnells in the basement           Jerrie Barber in the large classroom

Note:  Please offer a prayer of thanks for the lunch food before dismissing from your break out session.   And, then come straight to the fellowship hall. Thank you.

Lunch – 12:15 to 1:00 in the fellowship hall – we want to thank the Worship Committee for providing and serving the food for this meal.

1:00 to 1:45 – Growing and Keeping Everything the Same – Jerrie Barber

1:50 to 2:05 – Break

2:05Spiritual Matchmaking:  Creating Environments that Lead People into Discipleship of Jesus – Huston Oliver

Break 2:50 to 3:05

3:05 to 3:50  – Leading from the 2nd Chair – Tim Gunnells

Break out sessions:  3:55 to 4:45    Hutson Oliver in the auditorium

                                                               Tim Gunnells in the basement

                                                               Jerrie Barber in the large classroom

Supper:   5:00 to 5:45 in the fellowship hall – we wish to thank the Ladies’ Sunshine Ministry for providing and serving the food for this meal.

5:55 to 6:40  – Neglecting Our Silent Sufferers – Dean Miller,former pulpit minister at Maury City, TN and director of “Widowhood Workshops”

Break:  6:40 to 6:50

6:50 to 7:30 – Open Time for Q&A for any of our speakers – panel

Dismissal:  7:30

Saturday, January 25, 2020 – 8:00 to 8:30 –

     Registration for folks attending the Widowhood Workshop and those not yet registered for CIC.    Please eat breakfast before attending.  SNACKS & DRINKS will be available in the fellowship hall all morning.   Feel free to have snacks and drinks during breaks.   If you would keep your drinks and snacks in the fellowship hall area, it would be appreciated

Saturday, January 25 – this morning and tomorrow morning will hopefully serve 2 purposes:  (1) hopefully it will provide everyone who attends the blessing of the Widowhood Workshop itself (the workshop is designed for married couples, singles and widowed; it is good for anyone), and (2) it will hopefully encourage those who attend to go home and start a ministry for widows/widowers.    We know of no one in the brotherhood (or anywhere else) who is doing what Dean Miller is doing.   This is a greatly needed ministry not just for the church but also in communities everywhere.

8:30 to 9:30   – Widowhood from a Biblical & Personal Perspective – Session 1 – Dean Miller

Break:  9:30 to 9:45

9:45 to 10:45  –  Widowhood from a Biblical & Personal Perspective – Session 2

Break:  10:45 to 11:00

11:00 to Noon  – Life, Love & Loss – Dean Miller

Noon to 12:30 – Q&A about Widowhood Workshops – Dean Miller will answer questions

Evaluation & dismissal at 12:30 in the auditorium – we would like for all those who attended to do a brief evaluation of CIC and/or the Widowhood Workshop before leaving.

We invite you back to tomorrow morning’s adult class and worship service when Dean Miller will present the two lessons listed below:

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Praise the Lord—No Matter What! – Sunday morning Bible class at 9:30 in the auditorium – All adult classes will meet in the auditorium.

What to Do When We are Overwhelmed – Sunday morning worship at 10:30

If you wish to attend CIC or the Widowhood Workshop, please do the following before January 15, 2020:

  1.   Send a list of those attending from your church to us –


  •   Please send $40 per person; this donation covers 2 meals & materials.  Tnx
  • You may now pay/donate on line at under “Give On Line”

Our mailing address is P O Box 494, Athens, TN 37371,

What about the motels in Athens?

There are 4 high quality motels at Exit 49 on I-75 (I-75 runs between Knoxville and Chattanooga north and south). Those motels are:

The Comfort Inn   423 252 8030 ; Comfort Inn offers a church rate/discount; call them and ask for it. It is $89.10 plus 14.25% tax. If there is any problem, ask for Megan.

                         The Hampton Inn   423 745 2345

Holiday Inn   423 649 0003                  Fairfield Inn (opened May, 2018)   423 507 0870

I would urge you to go ahead and make your reservations soon; these motels are usually full because we are part of a tourist area.

All sessions are recorded and will be sent to all who attend.

Our mailing address is P O Box 494, Athens, TN 37371

Our physical address is 1016 North Avenue, Athens, TN 37303

Our church phone is 423 745 0554

Travis Irwin’s (the director of CIC) phone is 423 920 3060 (text or call); email at

For more information you can go to:

Schedule for SERVE Ministries Workshop of January 22 & 23, 2020.

Schedule for Wednesday, January 22, 2020

1:00 – Preparing for Involvement – 6 steps to 100% participation

   What is Your Mission?    Your mission or lack of it Affects Involvement

2:00 – What if we Don’t Have a Full-time Staff Member to Lead Involvement?

15 – minute break

2:45 – Good, Better & Best – Approaches to doing Involvement

3:45 – God’s Masterpiece

Supper break:   5 to 7

7:00 – Wednesday Evening Bible Classes

Schedule for Thursday, January 23, 2020

8:30 – Discovering the Real You – Your Personality


9:45 – Break out

10:30  –  Priceless Baggage – What God has Given You that You Can Use

11:00 – Break

11:15 – Break out

Noon to 1:00 – Lunch

1:00 – How Your Past Affects Your Present

1:30 – What Drives You – Your Passions

2:30  – Break

2:45 – Break out

3:00 – You are Ready

3:30  –  Real Life Coaching

4:15 – Break

4:30 – Break out and wrap up

If you plan to attend this workshop please let me know by January 15, 2020


The Comfort Inn   423 252 8030                     Fairfield Inn  423 507 0870

The Hampton Inn   423 745 2345                   Holiday Inn   423 649 0003

Travis Irwin, IM at Athens Church of Christ, Athens, TN

423 920 3060

You are also invited to the 4th annual Church Involvement Conference on Friday, January 24 and Saturday, January 25, 2020.

My Congregation’s Purpose

Can My Local Congregation Know God’s Purpose?

Yes!   How?   Two simple answers:

Your congregation can know God’s general purpose for them.    It is to reach the lost and make disciples and to help Christians grow spiritually (Eph.3:9-11; Matt.28:19-20; Eph.4:11-15; Acts 16:2).   If more congregations did these two things, the church would be growing numerically and spiritually.     But many congregations have no plan to carry out the Great Commission.  The mission of the church is NOT to assemble but to transform lives with the gospel of Christ.  

Your congregation can discover the greatest real needs in the church and design ministry to meet those needs.   This is easily done.   You will have to know your people and their needs.   You can also ask members what they feel the needs are.  When you discover the needs, you have a pretty good idea what God’s purpose is for your congregation:  to meet these needs.  The goal of every such ministry is to promote spiritual growth.

Your congregation can discover the greatest real needs in the community and design ministry to meet those needs.   I may be able to save you a lot of time with this one because I’ve done the foot work and I’ve talked with other churches who did what I did.   I’ve talked with the chief of police, school officials, city council members, state representatives and senators, city and county mayors and they all say the same thing:   the family is falling apart and there is great drug abuse.   We can create ministries that promote solid families and help those who are addicted.    These ministries can be preventive or corrective in nature.  Above all, they should be evangelistic; only Jesus can solve all the family and addiction issues in our culture.

I think it is also vital that members of your congregation discover how God has designed them for these purposes.   I am of the opinion that when members discover how God has designed them for ministry and when they know the needs of the members and the citizens of their locale, they will see a clear vision/purpose for their congregation.   If your members have no clue as to their personal purposes in life, then how in the world would they ever see how they fit into God’s purpose for the local church?   Both are necessary.

If you are interested in our SERVE Ministries inventories, please contact me at   God bless.  

Our next SERVE Ministries Workshop is November 1 & 2. For more information please contact me at 423 920 3060.


May I Know My Life’s Purpose?

Can I Know God’s Purpose for My Life?

Yes.   And I would like to think that every Christian would want to know what God’s purpose is for their lives.   However, many Christians do not think it is important to discover this.  This is a loss for them, the church and the world.

How do I come to know God’s purpose for me?

First, you can know the general purpose of why you are alive and why you are here.   Colossians 1:16 says of Christ, that he is creator all things:  everything was created BY Him and FOR Him.   Every one of us is here FOR Him.   Life is not about US; it is about HIM.   We are here to please Him and glorify Him and to love Him fully/totally  (2 Cor.5:9; 1 Cor.10:31; Matt.22:37-40).   This applies to Christians and non-Christians alike.

Second, you can know your specific purpose for life by discovering your spiritual gift(s).    For example, if you have the gift of service, you know that you should be serving. The point is the very definition of the gift you have tells you something about your specific personal purpose.  If you have the gift of evangelism, you ought to be busy talking to others about the Lord.  If you have the gift of administration/leadership, you should be leading in some way.  If you have the gift of teaching, you should be teaching.   If you have the gift of giving you would be giving.   Your gift in some very real sense defines your specific mission in life.   However, knowing your passions brings all of this into greater focus.

Third, you can know your specific purpose for life by discovering your PEOPLE passions and your THINGS passion.

Your “people” passion and your “thing” passion will tell you WHOM you should be serving and HOW you should be serving them.   These two pieces of information bring into focus, even in greater detail, God’s specific purpose for your life.  A young lady said that she had the gift of compassion.  She then told me she loved older people and she loved to cook for them.   I think God’s purpose for her is to cook meals for older folks, in this case, lonely older people.   In the process, she brings joy and hope into many lives.

I think having a ‘coach’ can be helpful in assisting Christians to find out this vital information.  But alot of this is just good old common sense. There is not rock science. God doesn’t work that way.

My greatest concern is that so often we are busy with so many distractions we don’t see the importance of this GREAT fact.   If you would like to discover your spiritual gift and passions, please email me and I’ll send you the necessary inventories.

Our next SERVE Ministries Workshop is November 1 & 2. It is an intense 13 hour workshop training you and your church on how to do involvement. Contact me at 423 920 3060 for more information.


Involvement Theory & Reality

Involvement Theory & Reality

I am a firm believer that God supplies all our needs (cf.Phil.4:19).   I am also a firm believer that the Lord supplies everything we need to do His work (cf. Eph.4:9-11; et al) in our local congregations.    

Both of these put together simply mean that the work (that which needs to get done) of each congregation, in theory, should get done.   In other words, there are enough people, gifts, passions, life skills, ministry experience and personalities to get everything done to help a church run smoothly and grow both numerically and spiritually.   In some very real sense, we shouldn’t have to use the word “need” in the church.   Every ‘need’ should be covered by her members.   In some sense, we shouldn’t have to ask or beg for volunteers.

However, this is not reality.   Reality is that many times we have a shortage of volunteers for various ministries in the church (e.g. men leading worship, child care, teachers, etc.).   This is true of my congregation and we have exceptional members.   For some ministries, we are constantly asking (I don’t like the word ‘begging’) and requesting more volunteers.   I am convinced that the ‘man power’ is in the pews (theory) but in reality, not all members are volunteering to fill in where we are deficient (reality).   Why is this?

Some members have proper boundaries.   Some folks know their limitations; they are not going to overcommit themselves to their personal detriment or the detriment of their marriages or families.   These folks have limited themselves to a certain number of ministries and no more.   They refuse to overcommit.  I cannot argue with this.  I do, however, applaud it.    Do I wish they would do more?  Sure, especially when it comes to doing what others apparently do not wish to do.  However, this is not fair.   Everyone of us needs boundaries.

Some members don’t know how God has blessed them for ministry.   Some members have not taken the time or expended the energy needed to discover how the Lord has designed them for ministry.    As a result, they may or may not be involved in any ministry.   I believe, if they knew how God designed them, they would be likely to join the fellowship of ministry in the local church.   We are a priesthood of believers who are living sacrifices.

Some members don’t feel any obligation to serve in any capacity.    This is an interesting point.   Yes, there are some members who seriously do not feel that have any obligation or responsibility to serve in any capacity.  You ask, “How could anyone feel this way?”   Please allow me to explain.   Some feel no obligation because they have not been taught that we each have this obligation or privilege.   Some of us feel this way because we feel like we’ve already fulfilled our obligation when we were younger.  I’ve heard many older members say this especially those with children that they taught when younger.  I really don’t see anything in the Bible about retiring from ministry at any age no matter our circumstances.    Some members are the thorny soil of Jesus’ parable of the four soils.  They are so busy with work, play, sports, recreation, travel, family, hobbies, possessions, friends, gadgets, toys, etc. etc. they don’t have time or desire to serve.   Some in their spiritual immaturity are irresponsible and think the church exists for them.  They have not gotten to the spiritual development point where they actually bear any fruit for the Lord. They have either forgotten or never heard that they were created by Christ and for Christ.   All we can do is continue to educate and exhort and hope they change.

Some of them need to be asked.   In one of my articles (Why Some Members are Not Involved) I mention this reason.    Some folks simply need to be asked.   We shouldn’t prejudge them thinking they would not be interested.   We need to give them the benefit of the doubt and ask them for their help.

There may be other reasons (excuses) that members have.  I cannot think of one that will stand up in God’s court.   No matter our age, our gender, our health, our income, our education, our experience, our Bible knowledge, we should be serving in some capacity.

But this is theory; more important this is what the Lord expects.   We have been recreated in Christ for good works.   We are His masterpiece created in Christ for good deeds.  The ideal is that theory becomes reality.   And, it does when Christ becomes Lord of our lives.


Responses from Attenders of Our First SERVE Workshop

Responses from Attenders of the first

SERVE Ministries Workshop

Our first workshop is history.   Originally, we had folks coming from four states and in that mix an elder, a deacon, a preacher/counselor and a family involvement minister.   Due to a death, the preacher and his wife were unable to attend.

The workshop was never designed for large groups.  I believe smaller groups allow more sharing and greater detail.   I think a limit of 20 max is good and smaller groups make more sense. When a congregation has a workshop for its leaders and/or their spouses, the max number could increase. I’ve had as many as 65. I will also continue to encourage church leaders to bring their wives; the wives (or ladies) contribute much to the overall event.

One attending sister stated (in her evaluation) that “I got more than I expected.” She also wrote, “The workshop was so insightful and provided good guidance in involvement ministry inventorying, coaching and implementation.   I strongly recommend new involvement ministers to take this workshop.”

Another sister wrote, “This was a great workshop.  Material was informative…Many ideas to take home and use….”

An elder wrote, “I clearly recommend this session if you are attempting to involve your members in vitalizing their God given gifts.”  His wife wrote, “Wonderful compilation of insightful material that, if applied as intended, should bear much fruit, i.e. set members on fire wanting to serve God!”

It’s important for you to know that I always ask attenders to share what they thought were the strengths and weaknesses of the workshop.   Every suggestion that has ever been made has been integrated in my future workshop or retreat.

Our next workshop is scheduled for November 1 & 2 here in Athens.  I am looking for a church in Nashville that will allow me to do a workshop on their campus that will be open to area churches.   Nashville is much more central than Athens.  I am still open to doing workshops for individual congregations of the Lord’s church in the United States.  Please contact me at or call me at 423 920 3060 if I can serve you.   

Smaller Churches

Small Churches

One of the greatest blessings I enjoy is talking to church leaders from all over the country.  Everyone I talk to is deeply concerned about the future of their congregations.  Most of the folks I talk to are from smaller congregations of the Lord’s church.  I am told the average congregation of the church of Christ is between 50 and 70 members.   I am also told that every six days a church of Christ closes its doors forever.

I was recently in the state of Delaware and three of the churches from there met with me.   They all were small churches: the largest being 70 members.  I love to work with smaller churches because many of them of are really motivated.

There are several reasons why there are small churches:

  1.   Some churches are small because they are new churches.   You gotta start small unless you’re the first century church.    Every church plant starts small. When my dad was younger, he helped establish several congregations of the Lord’s church; they were all small at the beginning and it took years before there were several hundred members.
  2.   Some churches are small and they have no control over their smallness.  I preached at David Shannon’s home church in Brushy, TN for over three years.   Those Christians there did everything possible to reach the lost in their small community.   They built homes for those who lost them in a tornado.  They fed people.   They helped people with financial help.   The elders knew everyone in the community.   The church served and reached out. To this day they continue to do such things; these are wonderful dedicated saints. Few have come to the Lord because of their efforts.   Yes, sometimes the economy adversely affects a church and folks move away. Children grow up, leave for school and jobs.  These are things over which some churches have no control and thus they churches remain small.
  3.   Some churches are small because of neglect.   When a church aims at nothing (has no goals), it hits nothing with amazing accuracy.   If a church does not value souls and growth, it will die.   Its mission or purpose is being neglected.   Many good-hearted Christians love peace and comfort more.
  4.   Some churches are small because they want to remain small.   A few years back I was attending a preachers’ meeting in a large metroplex.   Several preachers had reached out to a smaller church in an up and growing suburb town.    The people (most of them related to each other in this church) had the opportunity to become a church over several hundred members.   They declined.   The did NOT want any other members, period.
  5.   Some churches are in a decline which leads to smallness.  I recently spoke to a sister in Christ out West who had been a member of a church of well over 200 members.   She married and moved away.    Having raised her family she had returned to her home town and her home church and they now have 60 members.   What happened?   The church had stopped growing and started to decline.  It is very difficult to reverse a decline in a church.

What’s my point? First, we shouldn’t be judgmental of smaller churches. Second, there is a place in this world for smaller churches. Third, I would say that most of the churches/congregations of the first century were smaller: they met in homes. Smaller churches, especially those which have goals, meet needs of her members and folks in the community around them. And then, we are told not to despise small things; in God’s eyes they have value and worth.

Whether your congregation is large or small, if you are faithfully serving the Lord, you are accomplishing what He established you for. God bless you.

In closing, I want to share the story of the church of Christ in Remmell, Arkansas.

A True Story About a Small Church That Is No Longer Small:

NEWPORT, Ark. — Finding a saint among the 170-plus souls who fill the rural Remmel Church of Christ on a typical Sunday can be difficult.
This congregation, in a northeastern Arkansas county where the sheriff estimated that 30 percent of adults use methamphetamines, overflows with sinners.
It’s been that way ever since the church, in a farming community seven miles east of the Jackson County seat of Newport, started reaching out to folks with drug addictions, marital problems and other personal hang-ups.
“One lady said, ‘Well, any old sinner can go to the Remmel church,’” said Lou Butterfield, the congregation’s pulpit minister and one of its seven elders. “And we’ve laughed about that ever since because that’s right.”
These days, a steady stream of cars and trucks — a modern-day wagon train — descends each Sunday on the yellow-brick church that sits next to an old cemetery.
Men, women and children, many dressed in jeans, drive 10 to 20 miles to where the pavement gives way to gravel — to worship at a congregation that stresses hugs and handshakes, love and acceptance, prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit.
“The people are caring and go out of their way to help others,” said Brody Hubbard, who was baptized along with his wife and two children in February after attending a home Bible study group for about a year.
Everyone is welcome here, even elder Arvil Jones’ black Labrador, Drake, who walks two miles to services each week.
Since 2003, the Remmel church has baptized more than 85 adults and children. About three-fourths of those baptisms occurred as a direct result of evangelistic efforts, according to church records.
“Remmel is a great example of what a small rural church can do if it decides that it really wants to grow,” said Flavil Yeakley, director of the Harding Center for Church Growth in Searcy.
Fifteen years ago, this same congregation was dying.
Younger residents had abandoned the farming life and moved away. The community’s cotton gin and only store had closed. Sunday morning attendance had dipped to about 30, and many of the members who remained were less than on fire for the Lord.
“We had gotten so legalistic that it made everybody sick,” said Karen Jones, 43, an obstetrician/gynecologist who has attended the church since she was 2.
“If someone came in and announced that one of us had died, I don’t think we could have looked any more gloomy,” added Jones, a mother of three whose father, David Bowman, and grandfather, Morris Bowman, both have served as Remmel elders.
Butterfield, a communications professor at Harding University in Searcy, accepted the part-time preaching duties at the Remmel church 14 years ago. “Half of the time, I didn’t want to come,” he said. “It’s like, we were driving 40 miles to preach to 30 people, most of whom didn’t care.”
Butterfield decided he’d preach on serving others and see if the idea caught on. Growth came slowly at first, but attendance crept up to about 50 within five years, he said.
About that time, a handful of women in the congregation approached church leaders about offering a special Sunday night class for the community. The idea: to deal with topics of relevance — sex, marriage, drugs, debt management — in a non-threatening, non-judgmental manner that might lead folks to inquire about the organizers’ faith.
“Our friends were going to hell, and we were not doing anything about it,” said Jones, one of the women who pushed for the outreach effort. “We wanted to do something that was going to help with that.”
At first, Cokes and cookies were offered at the Sunday night classes. Prayers were not. Within a year, about 125 people were gathering each week at the Remmel Community Center, a one-time schoolhouse next door to the church.
One night, a guest asked if the class leaders would make an exception and pray for her sick mother. “From that night on, half the time we spent praying,” Butterfield said.
Many of the attendees found their way to the church on Sunday mornings. At the same time, the congregation hired a marriage and family therapist and offered free counseling. Many of those counseled were converted, too.
In the meantime, young people at the church started attending Camp Wyldewood, a Bible camp in Searcy. “They got absolutely convicted about Jesus,” said Jones, whose twin daughters, now 19, were among the campers. “They brought that home to us and just put us to shame about our pitiful little religion.”
Camp became a top priority of the church.
The congregation offered to send any child in Jackson County to Bible camp for free. Last summer, the congregation spent more than $24,000 to pay camp expenses for more than 100 young people, Butterfield said.
“We have baptized whole families because their kids went to camp,” he said. “If we quit doing everything we do, we’d send kids to camp. That’s our No. 1 evangelistic tool.”
In a similar way, the church found saving water for adults in the Buffalo River, about 100 miles north of here. Hoping to reach the husbands of wives converted to Christ, leaders organized family float trips on the Buffalo — and paid for them out of the church treasury.
“We have church services on the bank of the river on Sunday morning,” Butterfield said. “Nobody has to come. But … we’ve had people come who would never put their foot in the side door of the church.”
Shane Goings grew up in a Church of Christ, but drifted away as he became addicted to meth — a 20-year habit that twice landed him in prison. In 2005, he came to the Remmel church. Members helped him and his wife, Cheyenne, now the parents of 9-month-old twins, Aiden and Blake, financially and spiritually.
“Just through prayer and a miracle from God, I’m not behind those (prison) walls today,” said Goings, who now serves as the congregation’s addictions minister and recently helped convert seven county jail inmates.
“When you walk in the Remmel church, you know you’re welcome,” said Goings, who leads a Wednesday night addiction recovery group. “You just feel like a family. Man, I wouldn’t hesitate telling anybody in there anything I’ve got going on.”
Blue encouragement cards fill the back of the church pews. Members send hundreds of them to people all over the county and beyond. A few years ago, when John Walton’s son, Anthony, now 20, was dealing with a drug addiction, the congregation flooded the family with cards.
“We would also hear from many that we were on the famous Remmel prayer list,” said Walton, whose family knew many members outside the church but had never worshipped there. When members learned of the Waltons’ difficulty paying for Anthony’s drug rehabilitation, they collected $3,000 for the family, Butterfield said.
“We had already been so affected by their prayers and cards, but I will never forget the thing that David (Bowman) said: ‘We didn’t know of anything else to do, but we felt like this would help,’” said Walton, whose family soon started attending the Remmel church.
Sandra Hollenback first visited in early 2005 after a friend invited her daughter, Kaytlin, now 13. “It so happened that the service was a prayer service due to so many of the congregation facing serious illnesses,” Hollenback said. “I was moved to tears and weak in the knees when everyone was asked to gather around these individuals, place your hands on them or those around you and pray.”
Butterfield baptized the mother and daughter in the family’s pool about six months later. Her husband, Dennis, was immersed the following January, and son Sean, now 18, accepted Christ at camp that summer.
In the year after the baptisms, Sandra Hollenback said, “They taught our kids about the importance of purity, the struggles of addictions, took them to visit nursing homes, took them to New Orleans to assist in Katrina recovery … and the list seems endless.”
An airline pilot, farmers, bankers, college professors, homemakers, carpenters and even a funeral home owner make up this diverse congregation.
The common tie: a love of God and a belief that helping hurting people leads them to Christ.
“Remmel lifts up Christ,” Walton said. “People see Christ in the Remmel church, and they are drawn to him.”

What’s the secret?  There is no secret—when a church reaches out to people and meets real needs, the church grows spiritually and numerically.

What People Say About…

Positive & Negative Responses to

“Resolved to Involve” Retreats & Seminars, now…

Over the past two years, we have done several workshops to train congregations on how to start an involvement ministry.      We called these retreats/workshops “RtI” or “Resolved to Involve.”    We are now calling them SERVE Ministries Workshops.

Each retreat or workshop was evaluated by the participants.   Following are many of the responses of those participants including suggestions for improvements.    Please use these evaluations as possible recommendations for attending or for having a retreat or workshop.

The new retreats are about 3 to 6 hours and the new workshops are now a minimum of 13 hours. The workshops are only for those congregations that are serious about involvement and are willing to make a commitment to involvement. Having a retreat first may help them make the decision to have a workshop.  Retreats are fun and attenders enjoy them. Workshops are ‘work’ shops. You can see a workshop schedule on this website.

Following are many (not all) of individual evaluations.   Our retreats and workshops are designed to assist church leadership in designing a means to get all of their church members involved in ministry. 

There were 7 questions that I asked participants to answer in my evaluation (the new evaluation has only 6 questions).  I was pleasantly surprised by the answers.   The most negative thing that was shared was time related.   Some participants would have liked to have had the Power Point materials.  I am still thinking about that one.   A lot of material is made available for their use before, during and after the presentations. 

Following are the questions and some of the answers that came from dozens of participants:

  •  Was this weekend what you expected?   If not, what did you expect?

It was great.   It was better.   Yes, better.   The inter-active workshop was very good.   Many simply answered, “Yes.”  No, it was so much better than what I expected…It was very insightful.  I was pleasantly surprised by the presentation style…The handouts are great and allow/develop great insight.   More than what was expected.  It provided more information than I expected.  I was pleasantly surprised with topics as they related to discovering myself and others.   Yes, very helpful.    I found this information helpful for church involvement.    

  •  Was there material or information that you would have found helpful that was not presented?   If so, what information would you have included?

I did a three-hour presentation which really limited me and also limited much needed discussion; following are some of the responses from that event:   Needed break out sessions, role playing.  I can’t think of anything.  Need more information about implementation. 

My weekend retreats received completely different responses:  many said, “No,” there wasn’t anything else you could have presented.    One added that time constraints would not have allowed any other materials.  One person answered “Yes” but did not suggest anything to be added.

  •   Were the presentations too brief or too long?

For the three-hour event, 9 of the participants felt that the timing was just right.   One person thought things went too fast (and so did I).  Other answers ranged from “Perfect” to “Good” to “Just right.”  Several felt we had enough breaks and that the break-out sessions were helpful and very engaging.   One wanted more time and one said that the sessions showed great time management.  A more recent workshop participant suggested that more time was needed for break out sessions.   A few suggested more discussion and a shorter ‘first’ presentation.   I have taken these suggestions seriously and made changes.  I would say 90% liked the length of the presentations and some felt more discussion on personalities was desired.

  •   Were the presentations too deep or too shallow?

The most used answer was “Just right.”   Two folks said, “neither.”  And, it is not surprising that one said, “Things went too fast.”   Some other responses were, “well balanced,” “good depth,” “fine,” “good,” “very good,” and “perfect.”   One participant felt the material was a little shallow for those present, but it would work for a congregational presentation.  Other comments included:  well organized, enthusiastic and clear presentation.  Several liked the visual content.

  •   If you could list two ways to improve this retreat, what would they be?

Many left this question blank.  Several felt the need for more time.   One said, “Not sure” how to improve it.    I one added, “Great job!” One said, “it was a great approach….”  Some felt they needed more time for discussion.  There were also some who felt the seating wasn’t adequate and one thought the lighting for the projector wasn’t good.  And, then one, stated that more of the church leaders needed to be present.    The new workshops are 13 hours; this is on purpose to allow adequate break out time and time for breaks for refreshments, and potty trips.

  •    What did you like most about the presentations?

Very well presented.  Concise, clear, good interaction.  It was both fun and informative.  Made me think.  Seeing how personalities interact.  Practical, applicable, materials ready to use and informative.  Many liked talking about personality traits.   The material was presented in such a way that made it interesting.  Everything!   Personal accounts and humor.  It put it on the front of my mind as to a person’s gifts and passions.  I enjoyed the group discussions.   It was done in a way that all can understand.   The spiritual gift test, personality, greatest passions test.  The focus on understanding our differences and the strength that can be developed because of it.

Realizing your personalities, passions and interests and using them to edify the church, coming up with creative ways to utilize these.  It was relatable.  Your fun spirit and the practicality of the subject.  Breakdown of the personalities of different people.   Was challenging and visionary.   Great introduction practice “unknown facts.”   “Kept moving.”   It helps to understand why as well as how.  Thought provoking and simplistic.  What it showed about myself.   Practical, easy to understand and good visuals.   Survey to determine your spiritual gifts.    Many enjoyed discovering how God has designed them (with gifts, personalities, passions, etc.)

  •   What do you think you, as a church leadership, should do having spent this time and learned what was presented this weekend?

I will not list every answer here.  However, I will say that almost 100% of the respondents thought they should immediately move forward with assisting members in discovering how God had created them for good works and get all members involved in ministry.   To this day, I have not had one negative response under this question.

If you are interested in talking to the folks who invited me, please give me a call and I’ll give you their contact information.     Thanks for taking the time to read these.  I am taking reservations for workshops and retreats.    I hope to have two workshops here in Athens this year.   Our first one is May 24 and 25.    Trav


The goal of these ministries is to assist churches in transforming members into disciples of Jesus by preparing them for ministry.  
This is accomplished by showing members that they are God’s masterpiece created anew in Christ for good deeds and by showing them how God has designed them for HIS purpose.

Members are assisted in discovering how each of them has been created for God’s purpose. Members will be shown how they may determine what God’s specific purpose is for each of them. Congregations can also uncover God’s specific mission for them in their locale.

This is not another program that works for a short period of time.  It is not a fad.  It is not a thing that starts out BIG and then fizzles out.   This is a life-changing, church-changing ministry.    It will change the DNA of a church.  It does NOT change the gospel, it causes members to live lives of service. As we like to say it, “It moves members from sitting to serving.”

If you have any questions, you can contact us at 423 920 3060 or email Travis Irwin at

A workshop schedule is below.

Schedule for SERVE Workshops

Friday afternoon:   1 to 5 –  You Are God’s Masterpiece

 Increasing the 20% – from sitting to serving – Introducing Involvement Ministry

Friday evening:    6 to 7:15 – You Are Gifted

7:15 to 8:00 – Break out, sharing and dismissal

Saturday:   8:30 to 9:30 – Discovering the Real You

9:30 to 10:30 – Breakout, sharing and break

10:30 to 11:15 – You Have Some Very Good Baggage that God Can Use

11:15 to Noon – Break out and share – dismissal for lunch

Noon to 1:00 – Lunch 

1:00 to 1:45 – What Drives You?

1:45 to 2:30 – Breakout, share and break

2:30 to 3:00 – How Your Past Affects Your Present

3:00 to 3:15 –   Your Processing Style

3:15 to 3:30 – U Are Ready

3:20 to 3:30 – Break

3:30 to 4:45 – Real Life Coaching  (assessing the inventories & doing interviews)                          

I’m Tired of “Involvement”

I’m Sick of the Word “Involvement”

In one of my recent RtI retreats one of the men said, “Some of our members are getting tired of hearing about involvement.”

I can understand that.   I can also understand if it’s the only word that is used to describe ministry in the church, it could be annoying.

Please allow me to make some suggestions:

Use other words that mean the same thing.   There are many other words that can be used in place of the word ‘involvement’ to let members know of its importance.    What are some of those words?     Ministry is a good one.  Service is another.   Work is a good four-letter word that can be used.     “Doing good” is a good combination of words.    “Helping” is a good word, too.  “Blessing others” is helpful.  The Lord spoke of “bearing fruit” as did Paul and Peter. There are many ways of saying the same thing. If you need other suggestions,just use a good thesaurus.  And, ask others for suggestions.

Don’t preach on ‘service’all the time.   Preaching the whole counsel of God is good.   Expository preaching prevents an over-treatment of any topic.    However, another method of avoiding the obvious is to use many Bible stories wherein people help others.    Some other topics may include spiritual gifts,personalities, passions, life skills and life experiences in the contexts of blessing others.   Burn out and depression are needed topics.   Unity,fellowship, leadership, exhortation and a host of other subjects come to mind that are inter-related.  Being light and salt would help also.

Be consistent and  systematic but take your time in indoctrinating the brethren.

I think this is good advice for any church any time on any congregational focus, theme or topic.    We took two years before our first campaign and another four years to do our second and finally, it will be six years before my last here.   Educate the brethren slowly and methodically.   Don’t feel like you need to teach them everything about ministry in one month, one quarter or even one year.

I would think following some of these guidelines would be helpful.  I know we are not to be ‘men pleasers’ but I also know we don’t want to ‘make’ people hate something that God really loves.


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